Pregame Shootaround: Marquette at Georgetown

Gregory Shamus

The Hoyas are set to face off against Big East rival Marquette at 9:00 PM ET tonight in what will be Georgetown's third game in six days. Both teams are coming off debilitating losses this past Saturday with similar second half meltdowns: Marquette shot 5-of-27 in the second half of an overtime loss to Butler while Georgetown went without a field goal for the final 9:44 of regulation in a loss to Seton Hall, snapping a 16-game home win streak in the process.

Georgetown holds an 8-7 all-time series lead over Marquette, including a 4-1 record in games at the Verizon Center.

Get to Know Marquette.

The Big Picture.

This has been an incredibly disappointing season for a Marquette team that was picked to win the conference title in the 2013-14 Big East Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Golden Eagles dropped two of their first five games of the season and have done little to improve their situation since. Coming off an overtime loss to Butler just two days ago, Marquette is struggling to keep its head above water with a 10-8 overall record and a 2-3 record in the Big East (7th place).

What I learned from Wikipedia.

Marquette's intercollegiate athletic teams were the "Warriors" from May 1954 to July 1994 when the nickname was changed to the "Golden Eagles", on the grounds that previous logos had been disrespectful to Native Americans. Prior to 1962 Marquette football was known as "Golden Avalanche" and other teams were known as "Warriors," "Blue and Gold," and "Hilltoppers".The Marquette Warriors (the nickname that preceded Golden Eagles) won the NCAA basketball championship in 1977.In 2004, Marquette began to consider changing the name back to Warriors, but instead the Board of Trustees changed the nickname to simply "Gold". An intensely negative reaction by students, faculty, alumni, and fans led to yet another series of votes, which eventually pitted "Golden Eagles" against "Hilltoppers." The "Golden Eagles" nickname was restored in June 2005.

The (Marquette University) Fight Song is more commonly referred to as "Ring Out Ahoya," although the actual meaning of the word "Ahoya" is open to a great deal of debate. One leading theory is that the call of "Ahoya" was often made by sailors on the Potomac river while passing Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., hence Georgetown getting its nickname of "Hoyas." The cheer was then relayed from priests and professors moving between the two Jesuit universities. The lur horn or long tuba of the modern pep band sounds a traditional ship's signal during the "Ring Out Ahoya".  (Word for word from the Marquette University Wikipedia page. Cool stuff.)

Notable alumni: Chris Farley (‘86), Joseph McCarthy ('35), Doc Rivers, Dwyane Wade.

Roster rundown. Headlining the Marquette roster is forwards Jamil Wilson and Davante Gardner. Marquette's backcourt is underwhelming by comparison. Depth is a big issue for this squad, even by Georgetown standards.

Back court.

Marquette's backcourt does not have one standout player; rather, it is a balanced group of role players. Jake Thomas (7.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.5 apg) and Derrick Wilson (5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.0 spg) make up the starting backcourt. Todd Mayo (9.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.6 apg), arguably Marquette's most talented guard, comes off the bench for the Golden Eagles and is the team's third leading scorer. Deonte Burton (6.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.2 spg) also factors into the backcourt rotation.

Front court.

Marquette's frontcourt is not very deep, but with 6'8, 290-pound Davante Gardner (13.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.3 apg) and 6'7, 230-pound Jamil Wilson (11.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.3 apg), it certainly is talented. Gardner is averaging 17.5 points over his last four games and recorded his third double-double of the season in Marquette's loss to Butler on Saturday. Joining Gardner and Wilson in the starting lineup is 6'11 center Chris Otule (6.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg). Juan Anderson (4.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 spg) is the only frontcourt reserve Marquette uses, and even so his minutes are usually very sparse.

Marquette on twitter. Getting some early practice in at the Verizon Center.

What to watch when the Golden Eagles have the ball.

  • Golden Eagle: Davante Gardner. Gardner is the team's best weapon on offense because of his burly size and soft touch around the rim. He leads the team in scoring (13.9) and rebounding (5.9). In Marquette's previous four games Gardner has scored: 28, 19, 6 and 17 points, highlighting his scoring ability as well as his inconsistency, which has been an issue for him this year. Gardner has more single digit scoring performances (5) than he does 20-point outings (4) on the season. Interesting side note: Gardner needs just seven rebounds to become the eighth active Big East player with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for his career.
  • Hoya: Mikael Hopkins. Hopkins' inspired performance was one of two bright spots in the Seton Hall game (along with the play of Aaron Bowen), and particularly his play on defense. Hopkins snagged 15 rebounds, crushing his previous career high of 9, and also added two blocks and three steals. What I'm most impressed by is that he was able to do all of this while avoiding foul trouble (finished with 3 PFs), which is something that has plagued him over the past couple games. Hopefully he can keep this up.
  • Number. Second half points. Over Georgetown's previous two games the aggregate point differential is +22 in the first half (in favor of the Hoyas) and -45 in the second half. Xavier and Seton Hall made every adjustment they should have during halftime and completely buried us thereafter. JTIII needs to come up with a way to keep the team fresh and unpredictable in the second half of games or this will continue to happen.
  • Feeling delusional because... A major reason Seton Hall was able to beat us last game was because of stellar three-point shooting. The Pirates sunk 11-of-20 from downtown and effectively wore our defense out in the process. Fortunately Marquette does not have many shooters and instead runs its offense primarily through the post, living and dying by the production of Gardner and Wilson. This seems like a fairly ideal matchup for the Hoyas, and one they should be in the position to win as long as they don't self-destruct.
  • Feeling cynical because... Georgetown's second half woes, highlighted above.

What to watch when the Hoyas have the ball.

  • Hoya: Aaron Bowen. Bowen proved himself to a lot of people on Saturday in setting career highs in points (13) and rebounds (7) as well as providing Georgetown with some much needed energy and hustle. Coach Thompson rewarded Bowen for his strong play in first half by starting him in the second half over Nate Lubick. "It just made sense," said Thompson of his decision. "I thought during that stretch at the end of the first half he was playing well and so we just wanted to see if we could get some carry over." Bowen is averaging 8.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in the four games since Josh Smith's suspension.
  • Golden Eagle: Jamil Wilson. Wilson has at least 4 fouls in each of Marquette's previous four games and has fouled out of two of them (both losses). Since the Golden Eagles have virtually no frontcourt depth to speak of, Wilson fouling out of tonight's matchup would be especially huge for Georgetown. It certainly wouldn't be a bad idea to attack him early in the game and see if we can get him to pick up a couple early fouls.
  • Number. Free Throws. I said it before last game and I'll say it again: Georgetown desperately needs to get to the line more. They did a slightly better job against Seton Hall in registering 21 free-throw attempts, but this number is still far from ideal and once again was significantly below the opponent's free-throw attempts (30). Starks in particular needs to get to the line more often, especially since his shots from the floor have not been falling. Shooting 85.3% from the stripe, Starks is one of the best free-throw shooters in the conference yet for some maddening reason he has a combined 13 free-throw attempts over Georgetown's previous five games. If Starks wants to salvage his senior season at Georgetown he should start at the free-throw line.
  • Feeling delusional because... Marquette is the one conference team that may actually be in a bigger funk than Georgetown.
  • Feeling cynical because... It is painfully obvious that teams have figured out the formula for how to effectively defend us: throw defenders at our guards and dare our bigs to shoot. Not that it was tough, but still. If Seton Hall was able to stifle our offense that's a pretty clear indicator that something needs to change. Kudos to JTIII for pulling Lubick early last game, but clearly that alone is not enough.

Conclusion. I actually like our chances in this one. Marquette, like Georgetown, is not a deep team and can easily be sunk if the wrong player gets in foul trouble. Buzz Williams trusts six players on his team (starters + Todd Mayo) and will only give significant minutes to other players if he is forced. I think in the end our bigs will be able to contain Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson better than Marquette's guards will be able to handle DSR and Starks. It should be a close game, but in the end I think we pull this one out.

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