Games That Matter - January 4, 2012 - Georgetown v. Marquette
ESPN / USA Today: 9
Preview of Tonight's Game:
We all know what kind of game awaits the Hoyas on Wednesday night. Marquette is a blue collar, tough-nosed team that will play hard for 40 minutes. If Georgetown isn't ready to compete, or has extended stretches of inactivity, Marquette can bring the Hoyas back to reality. Despite unexpected losses to LSU and Vanderbilt, the Golden Eagles have played well throughout the early part of their schedule and have collected wins against Ole Miss, Washington, Villanova and Wisconsin (on the road). Even without Jimmy Butler, Marquette has already shown that it has the talent and the fortitude to compete with the top teams in the Big East.
Marquette is led by a pair of seniors-6'2" guard Darius Johnson-Odom (17.9 ppg, 2.8 apg) and 6'6" forward Jae Crowder (16.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg)-who provide a nice inside-outside tandem. Johnson-Odom is the clear ringleader and #1 scoring option on the team. He is adept at putting the ball on the floor and he's dangerous from the perimeter (at nearly 40% from the three-point line). He occasionally tries to do too much, though, and leads Marquette with 2.5 turnovers per game. Crowder is a work horse. He leads the team in rebounds and is comfortable shooting the ball from anywhere on the court. He's just as likely to take a three as he is to pound the ball inside. Perhaps surprisingly, Crowder leads the Eagles in three-point field goals and three-point attempts.
Helping Johnson-Odom in the backcourt are role players like 6'4" sophomore Vander Blue (9.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.4 apg) and Junior Cadougan (7.1 ppg, 5.2 apg). Both players are effective distributors and can get into the lane; neither shoots well from the perimeter. The key to guarding these guys, especially Cadougan, is to make them go over the top. Both are decent facilitators, but they also have trouble protecting the ball and average a combined total of over almost five turnovers per game. Also keep an eye on 6'3'' freshman Todd Mayo (9.8 ppg), who has been inconsistent, but more than capable of hitting big shots for Marquette.
Down low, Marquette is short and lacks depth. With the loss of 6'11'' big man Chris Otule to a knee injury, Marquette relies on Crowder and sophomore Davante Gardner (8.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg). At 6'8'', Gardner is the tallest player on the roster and has quickly become one of Marquette's biggest scoring threats. Gardner leads the team in field goal percentage (58.6%) and has connected on 37 of his48 free throws on the season (77%). He's a good rebounder who is dangerous on the offensive glass. If the Hoyas allow him to draw fouls and get to the line repeatedly, it could be a long night.
Fun Facts: Marquette is tenth in the country, and first in the Big East, in assists per game (17.4). Marquette ranks seventeenth in the country, and second in the Big East, in points per game (78.6).
Keys to the Game:
1. Don't Let Marquette Shoot Free Throws: Marquette is #1 in the Big East and 12th in the nation in free throw attempts per game (26.6). Players like Johnson-Odom, Crowder and Gardner do a phenomenal job of drawing contact and getting to the stripe, where they connect on over 70% of their free throws. Georgetown can't afford to take the bait. Marquette will do whatever it can to muscle its way inside and either score easy baskets in the paint or get to the line. We need to match their intensity without committing unnecessary fouls. We especially need to keep Gardner off the line. He's a strong guy who's solid on the offensive glass and hits his free throws at a very high rate.
2. Get the Ball Inside: News flash: Marquette has only one big man, and he's only 6'8''. We should be pounding the ball inside to Henry down low and taking advantage of mismatches with Hollis, Otto and Nate. Georgetown needs to be the aggressor by getting the ball in the paint and drawing fouls. It shouldn't be the other way around. And here's a special request for Henry: DUNK THE BALL. In the last three games, Henry has only connected on 7 of 33 field goals. But it's not like he's getting bad looks. Let's call it nerves, or maybe a renewed defensive commitment to guarding Henry. I don't care. What I do know is that Big Hank is getting open shots. He just needs to make them.
3. Hit Perimeter Shots: Before you say "Yeah, obviously", here's another fun fact: Marquette allows 20.6 three-point attempts per game. That ranks 283rd in the country. The Eagles also allow 6.6 three-pointers made per game (212th in the country). For a team that lacks interior depth, how is this possible? It's simple. Marquette collapses on everything in the paint. Because the Eagles lack size, they will often throw multiple defenders in the paint to guard opposing big men and help out on the glass. Leaving open perimeter shooters is the price they pay for compensating for a lack of size. Last time I checked, Georgetown doesn't mind shooting open threes. But unfortunately for the Hoyas, it seems like Little Markel is the only one who has been consistently knocking down shots from the perimeter. That needs to change tonight. If Marquette makes the mistake of filling the paint with too many players, guys like Henry and Otto should be able to find open shooters on the perimeter. Let's hope the shots go in.
4. Limit Turnovers: Marquette is a scrappy, athletic team. This should come as no surprise. Neither should the fact that Marquette is better in transition and prefers to run whenever it has a fast break opportunity. Georgetown needs to protect the ball and force Marquette into half-court sets. Nothing should come easy in this game.
Tonight will be a major challenge for the Hoyas. In their first real test of the new year, will the freshly minted #9 Hoyas get a little complacent? Or will we come out firing on all cylinders and try to prove to all the doubters that our ranking is right where it should be?
This game will be a slugfest. Considering we play Marquette twice this year, we need to take care of business at home. We need Hollis and Henry to step up.
First game of 2012. Let's go ahead and take care of business at home.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat Marquette.