On the opening offensive set of Marquette’s home victory over Providence last Thursday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the Golden Eagles won the tip, then set up a half court play for freshman Deonte Burton to catch the ball on the right baseline. He took a quick step and was into the lane, drawing a foul.
The shot didn’t go, but he went to the basket quickly and decisively.
Unfortunately, and fortunately, that’s how Marquette beat the 15-win Friars.
Defensively, if the Golden Eagles corralled the rebound, they flew out – Derrick Wilson pushing the ball up quickly, distributing to the tune of eight assists.
"I think that takes a lot of pressure off everybody by us playing like that," Derrick Wilson said. "Pushing the ball just makes it easier for everybody. Its easier points for all of us. And you get fouled because everybody is trailing, trying to catch up in rotation."
Yet the Golden Eagles only made 38.5 percent of their shots in the first half, and 40 percent in the second.
The offensive struggles continued over the weekend in a 74-59 loss to St. John’s on Saturday, as the Golden Eagles made just three baskets over the final 12 minutes, 45 seconds of the first half – a half where Marquette shot just 26.7 percent.
It’s been the story of the year for Marquette (12-10) this season as it hosts Butler (12-9) tonight in need of a win – and the start of a prolonged winning streak.
"Some of our best offensive players are our worst defensive players; and some of our best defensive players are our worst offensive players," head coach Buzz Williams said against Providence. "So, running them in waves the way we did in the first half (against Providence) was kind of a balance of all of it. Not, who started, not how old they are, not where they’re from, not what they did the last game or the game before, but what gives us our best chance today, from start to finish, to win."
How can they change it?
Perhaps it will be by making a more concerted effort to run, but run smartly.
In New York, Williams said his team played "a little too fast" in turning the ball over 16 times in 73 possessions. Against Providence, Marquette turned it over 11 times in 62 possessions.
On the road, they went 3 of 14 from 3-point range. At home two nights before, they were 3 of 13. On the road, they got up 15 more field goal attempts, but shot two fewer free throws.
Such consistent inconsistency is one reason the team hasn’t been able to win back-to-back games all year have alternated wins and losses dating back to Dec. 17.
They’ve shown flashes of an edge, when Burton and Johnson beat a defender in a step and get to the basket; when Mayo and Wilson finish above the rim.
Perhaps that’s the type of consistency they need to display to overcome the inconsistency found elsewhere on offense.
"I think everybody is starting to realize that that’s the easiest way to score, especially with our team," Derrick Wilson said. "We have a lot of athletes on our team, especially on the wings, so I think just getting the ball out like that, it just makes it easier for everybody. Davante, Chris, because they’re running straight to the block so (if) the guard’s pushing it their man steps up you just dish it down to them. I think it just helps everybody, pushing it."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.