Marquette’s Winter Break: Ups And Downs

Gary Leverton, Staff Writer. Photo: Marquette Athletics

Curious how Marquette did over Winter Break? Too embarrassed to ask your friends? Too lazy to look it up and scroll through all those recaps? Well now you don’t have to with our Marquette men’s basketball winter break recap. Take a look at all the ups (there were a few) and the downs (more than most had hoped) of the past month or so and find out whether Marquette is challenging for the Big East title or hoping for a few more victories to let them sneak into the Big Dance.

W 91- 74 against Chicago State (Nov. 21, 2015)

Marquette struggled initially, but recovered to hold a commanding 23 point lead at the half. Henry Ellenson had 19 points and Wilson had 18 as Marquette took control half way through the first half. Marquette moved to 9-2 on the season.

W 84-66 against Presbyterian (Nov. 27, 2015)

Marquette rolled to another comfortable victory over another inferior opponent. Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer both had double-doubles as Marquette used its size to dominate down low. With the win, Marquette moved to 10-2 and finished off their non-conference season in fashion.

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L 63-83 against Seton Hall (Nov. 30, 2015)

Marquette led at the half by 1, but struggled mightily in the second half and got outscored by 21 on their way to a 0-1 conference start. Haanif Cheatham led the team with 17 points, and Henry Ellenson had another double-double. Unfortunately, all five of Seton Hall’s starters scored in double figures with Desi Rodriquez leading the way with 19 points. Marquette struggled mightily from three point land, shooting a woeful 1 for 11 and was out rebounded by 16 causing them to collapse in the second half. With the loss, Marquette dropped to 10-3 overall and 0-1 in conference play.

L 70-80 at Georgetown (Jan. 2, 2016)

Marquette struggled defensively throughout this game allowing Georgetown to shoot 49% for the game. Behind a strong first half which saw Georgetown lead by 13 at the break, the Hoyas were able to maintain in the second half and hold on for the win. Duane Wilson led the way for Marquette off the bench with 17 points, while Ellenson, Fischer, and Sandy Cohen III all scored in double figures. With its second straight conference loss, Marquette dropped to 10-4 and 0-2.

W 65-64 at Providence (Jan. 5, 2016)

With a 0-3 start in conference play facing the Golden Eagles, Wilson, Cheatham, and Ellenson made sure this night would be different. Instead of previous nights where Marquette struggled to shoot and play defense, the Golden Eagles excelled in both shooting 51% while holding Providence to 37%. Cheatham led Marquette with 16 points, Wilson scored the go-ahead bucket with 31 seconds left, and Ellenson along with two other Marquette players triple-teamed Providence’s star Kris Dunn at the end before rejecting his final shot. Dunn and Ben Bentil both had 20-plus point nights, but were unable to receive much help from anybody else and couldn’t get one last basket. With the thrilling victory, Marquette moved to 11-4 and 1-2.

W 81-75 against St. John’s (Jan. 9, 2016)

Marquette struggled in the first half, leading to an 8 point deficit, but were able to rally in the second half to secure a victory over St. John’s. Fischer led the way with 18 points, while Henry Ellenson recorded a double-double, 15 points and 10 rebounds. Cheatham and Wilson both scored in double figures as well. St John’s and Marquette shot fairly evenly throughout the game, but the Golden Eagles were able to win the game on the stripe by making 10 more free throws than the Johnnies. With their second victory in a row, Marquette moved to 12-4 and 2-2.

L 68-83 at Villanova (Jan. 13, 2016)

In what might be seen as the most interesting Marquette game of the season, the Golden Eagles fought hard until mid-way through the second half when a devastatingly low scoring drought doomed their chances to win the game.  Marquette started off the game down 22-4, before rallying to take a 1 point lead into halftime. Throughout most of the second half, the game was close, until Marquette couldn’t make a bucket to save their life and ultimately found themselves down too much to overcome. 4 of the 5 starters scored in double figures for Marquette, but poor shooting late in the second half, plus an inability to stop Villanova from getting to the free throw line where they scored 12 more points than Marquette allowed the Wildcats to continue their impressive home winning streak of 33. Cheatham led the way with 17, while Ellenson, Fischer and Carter all had 10 plus points. With the loss, Marquette’s brief two game winning streak was snapped and their record now showed 12-5 and 2-3 in conference play.

L 66-74 against Xavier (Jan. 16, 2016)

Marquette leaped out to an early 15-6 lead, but once again a very long scoring drought saw them limping into the second half down 10. Marquette then was only able to trade baskets for the most part here and there until time ran out and a golden opportunity to secure a home win against a ranked opponent slipped away. Ellenson led the team with 20 points, while Jajuan Johnson came off the bench to score 13. Unfortunately, Xavier’s bench dominated with James Farr scoring 16 while adding 19 rebounds, and Edmond Sumner scoring 15 points. Marquette also didn’t have the best shooting night, only making 34% of their shots while Xavier was able to shoot 42%.

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Star player – Ellenson would be the easy choice, but everybody knew how good he was and he has shown it every step of the way. Therefore, I’m going to go with Haanif Cheatham. Cheatham hasn’t always looked like a top recruit, but he had a lot of higher scoring games, something Marquette desperately needs. Cheatham led the way in scoring in three games over break and was in double figures in several other games. Of course, like any young player, Cheatham will have his down games like against Xavier where he only had two points, but the promise he showed over the break should have Marquette fans excited.

Best game over break – The victory over Providence was easily the best game. Marquette needed to avoid a 0-3 start in conference play and a signature victory, and they were able to accomplish both goals in dramatic fashion. In a game that was up and down throughout, Marquette’s defense at the end sealed the best win of the year so far for the Golden Eagles.

Worst game over break – Losing to Villanova on their home court is understandable. So is losing to a very good Xavier team. But how in world does Marquette lose to Seton Hall at home by 20. Wojo is doing a good job so far and improvements have definitely been made, but Marquette has to stop getting blown out by slightly above average teams. Seton Hall may turn out to be a very good basketball team, but they are not that good nor is Marquette that bad. Whenever a team has a very long scoring drought later in the second half, they usually don’t win. Marquette proved that in this game.

Takeaways – Marquette is a young and talented team, and that showed big time throughout every game. At times, Marquette looked like a team ready to challenge some of the better teams of the Big East, but unfortunately defensive lapses and long scoring droughts kept them from a victory or two. Good, experienced teams always find ways to score and play good defense when they need to, and Marquette’s youth has shown they are not there yet. Not to say there isn’t plenty of time to get better and make a strong run at the end, but for now, they’re a middle of the pack team in the Big East.

Tweet us your thoughts at @mubbnation, or comment below.

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