While much of the preparation and media focus was on how the Hoyas might stop Howard, the question rapidly turned to whether the Hauser brothers were enough to overcome Georgetown at home. The game may have come down to a blocked shot, but Georgetown lost this game because of Marquette’s team play.
Without their superstar, Marquette was forced to play a very different brand of basketball. For at least one fan, the “Ewing Theory,” as relayed by Bill Simmons circa 2001, popped into mind:
The theory was created in the mid-’90s by Dave Cirilli, a friend of mine who was convinced that Patrick Ewing’s teams (both at Georgetown and with New York) inexplicably played better when Ewing was either injured or missing extended stretches because of foul trouble...
Dave introduced me to the Ewing Theory three years ago, and we’ve been tinkering with it like Voltaire and Thoreau ever since. Eventually, we decided that two crucial elements needed to be in place for any situation to qualify for “Ewing” status:
1. A star athlete receives an inordinate amount of media attention and fan interest, and yet his teams never win anything substantial with him (other than maybe some early-round playoff series).
2. That same athlete leaves his team (either by injury, trade, graduation, free agency or retirement) -- and both the media and fans immediately write off the team for the following season.
When those elements collide, you have the Ewing Theory.
Granted that last night’s injury was likely temporary and #15 Marquette’s ultimate success is yet to be determined, but it was clear that Coach Steve Wojciechowski’s supporting cast played much better without Howard for one special game in the nation’s capital.
For instance, the majority of the 5’11” guard’s minutes were replaced with the (6’8”) 21-year-old-freshman-forward Brendan Bailey, who had spent the prior two years in D.C. on his Mormon Mission. While Bailey’s 9 points (0 turnovers) in 27 minutes certainly helped offensively, his 4 blocks impacted James Akinjo’s drives and GU’s perimeter play. Marquette’s length helped all over and Wojo elected to guard the Hoyas’ center Jessie Govan with smaller, quicker forwards to limit his perimeter impact. This allowed MU’s (6’9”) center Theo John to have a size advantage and minimize Josh LeBlanc’s impact on the boards and in the post. Because of Howard’s less-than-stellar defense, losing their top scorer undoubtedly upgraded their defensive personnel and boosted Marquette’s efforts to slow down the pace-conscious Hoyas on offense.
On offense, Wojciechowski turned to juniors, 6’7” forward Sam Hauser and 6’5” forward Sacar Anim, to bring the ball up; Georgetown managed to pull only 5 turnovers from the two of them. Sam Hauser scored a career-high 31 points, while his younger brother 6’9” freshman forward Joey Houser scored 10, coughed up 5 turnovers, but had 6 big assists. Even center Theo John had his best scoring night of the season (14 pts) and matched his personal best in college.
Without Markus Howard on the floor, Marquette’s gameplan had to change rapidly, and other guys stepped up on both sides of the floor. The Hoyas failed to adapt and pressure ball-handlers who, generally, let Howard handle the ball most of the time. Patrick Ewing’s perimeter players could not find a way to overcome Marquette’s length, and failed to feed Govan (14 points; 2-4 2FG, 3-4 3FG) or LeBlanc in the post. A game that could have been a comfortable home victory without the opponent’s star player came down to the wire and finished on the short end.
The point is: should Coach Patrick Ewing and his staff have understood and identified when an opponent's injury situation reshuffles their deck and invokes the name-sake theory? Perhaps. There were plenty of opportunities to win, but don’t discount the effort of Marquette to come together when Howard sat down.
Here are the links:
Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski said[,] “. . . Govan is shooting 42 percent from the three-point line, he plays inside and out, and the way we play ball screens we thought that might give him a little too much space. So we asked our small guys to guard him and our bigger guys to provide help.”
Marquette (15-3, 4-1) used its size well all night. Other than the matchup with the 6-10 Govan, the Golden Eagles were bigger and more solid than Georgetown and bullied the Hoyas in the paint, outscoring them 34-22...
“We need to do better. Our players need to do better,” Ewing said. “We’ve got to share the ball better. Mac played a great game. Jessie’s got to step up and do more than he did. But as a team, we did not play well enough to win the game. We had our opportunities, had our opportunities at the end, but we just didn’t play smart.”
Wojciechowski: "We have made significant strides defensively. We have won games with our defense, and we were in a position tonight to do that."— Voice Sports (@GUVoiceSports) January 16, 2019
Marquette didn't even need superstar Markus Howard to earn one of its most impressive victories of the season. https://t.co/iPR1IEKuC6— JSOnline - NewsWatch (@js_newswatch) January 16, 2019
The 6-foot-8 forward also had to assume some ball-handling duties with Howard on the bench... ”I’ve done it before,” Hauser said. “Nothing I am not accustomed to. With Markus and Ed being out, there was a lot of next-man-up mentality for our whole team.”
Freshman Brendan Bailey played a season-high 27 minutes and had nine points on 4-for-5 shooting. The 6-foot-9, long-limbed Bailey also played harassing defense against lightning fast Georgetown point guard James Akinjo.
”I saw an incredible performance by a freshman,” Wojciechowski said. “Being called to action and delivering at the level he did - obviously everybody’s going to say ‘Oh yeah he had nine points.’  The points were great. His defense was better. He was fantastic defensively. He was guarding the point guard a lot and that kid is quick on quick.”
It was very tightly contested but in the end, Marquette kept its composure and made big plays when necessary to get a well-earned victory that makes me very happy. They can very much win on the road, they can win without Markus, and Brendan Bailey balled out tonight.
None of those were truths that I was confident in saying before tonight-especially the last one. A surprise for all of us was the game Bailey had in extended minutes: 9 points on 4-for-5 shooting and four, yes FOUR blocks, most of them of the “wait, how did he reach that?” variety! He played tough defense and got his lengthy arms on many balls to deny the Hoyas. He had at least two blocks from behind that I noticed. Just overall great awareness on defense.
RECAP: The Big East's leading scorer, Markus Howard, logged just three minutes due to injury, but Sam Hauser's career night propelled the Golden Eagles to victory at Capital One https://t.co/IDcl7KMbU0— Voice Sports (@GUVoiceSports) January 16, 2019
Sam Hauser continued to draw fouls and make free throws, but the Hoyas kept the game close and tied it at 70 once more with 2:09 to go. After forcing a travel, freshman guard James Akinjo had his jump shot blocked, and Sam Hauser hit a turnaround jumper with 1:06 remaining to give Marquette the lead. McClung got to the hoop with 46 seconds remaining, but only hit one free throw. Marquette missed the layup, and Akinjo tried to push the ball in transition and saw his attempt blocked out of bounds, giving the Hoyas a chance to draw up a play during the timeout. Akinjo drove to the basket, but his shot was blocked by sophomore forward Theo John. Sam Hauser hit two more free throws to complete a 22-point second half and escape D.C. with a 74-71 win.
Great help defense down the stretch by Marquette. Back-to-back blocked shots on James Akinjo layup attempts in the final 15 seconds.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) January 16, 2019
Golden Eagles win at Georgetown despite Markus Howard playing just three minutes. Sam Hauser stepped up with 31 points.
McClung was the star of the show until Kaleb Johnson scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting at the end of the half, sparking a late Georgetown run to give the Hoyas a 40-37 lead at the half.
The Hoyas remained hot out after the break, with McClung extending the lead to eight, their largest of the game, by converting on 3-of-3 free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt. Marquette answered with a quick run, capped by Joey Hauser’s and-one layup, to tie it up midway through the half. That run would extend to 17-3 as the Golden Eagles took a six-point lead, 57-51, prior to the under-eight timeout. McClung and Govan answered with three-pointers of their own, tying the game at 60 points apiece.