The Marquette Golden Eagles (16-8 overall, 6-5 in the Big East) will look to end a two-game slide when they host the 17th-ranked Georgetown Hoyas (17-5 overall, 8-3 in the Big East) at the Bradley Center on Thursday night. This will be the first meeting between these Jesuit universities in conference play, and the first time they've squared off since 1971. With alumni gathering for National Marquette Day festivities around the country, MU will look to re-establish momentum for its final push through the regular season.
Tom Crean's squad returns home after consecutive road losses against
Villanova and Rutgers. MU held a double-digit lead midway through the
second half against the Wildcats, only to succumb to turnovers and second
chance points late in the game. Against Rutgers, MU's lackluster defense
led to a 52-point second half outburst by the Scarlet Knights. As for
Georgetown, the Hoyas' seven-game winning streak was snapped over the
weekend by the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Less than two weeks ago, Marquette was riding high after a 6-3 start in
conference play, but begin the final stretch of the season in search of a
victory to put them back inside the bubble. The Golden Eagles close with
three of their last five at home, including Georgetown and Pittsburgh this
week. In order to keep their surprising NCAA tournament hopes alive, MU
needs to draw at least a split this weekend - - a tall order against two of
the Big East's best programs.
Coach John Thompson directs the Big East's most balanced offensive team,
six Hoyas average between 9ppg and 12ppg. While not particularly deep, the
Hoyas are the most efficient offensive team in the league, leading the Big
East in field goal percentage while turning the ball over just 11 times per
game. The Hoyas are paced by the talented forward combo of sophomore Jeff Green and senior Brandon Bowman. Green played his best basketball in the
Hoyas' recent hot streak, averaging better than 16ppg during the last seven
outings. Brandon Bowman scored a season-high 23 points in the Hoyas' upset
of Duke last month, and has been in double figures in eight of the last 10
games. Green and Bowman, along with 7'2" Roy Hibbert, will present matchup
problems for Marquette, particularly in man-to- man situations. MU simply
does not match up well with the Hoyas in the frontcourt. Green and Bowman,
both talented enough to create off the dribble while facing the basket,
consistently will force MU into help defense situations on the wings.
In the backcourt, the Hoyas are led by the steady Ashanti Cook and Jon
Wallace. Both shoot the ball very well (each at nearly 44% from 3-point
territory), and if their shots are falling, the Hoyas' advantage inside will
be more pronounced. After surrendering 32 points to Rutgers' Quincy Douby
on 50% shooting, one would expect the Golden Eagles to defend the perimeter
more effectively on Thursday night. In addition, look for the Golden
Eagles to change defenses regularly, and to play more matchup zone than
we've seen of late.
While Georgetown undoubtedly carries an advantage up front, the backcourt
edge should be in MU's favor. A key for Marquette will be Dominic James
and Jerel McNeal's ability to penetrate and create opportunities for
teammates freed up by rotating defenders, particularly Steve Novak and Joe Chapman. Brandon Bowman will likely draw the task of defending Novak, who
will look to return to form after a 5-15 performance against Rutgers. The
Hoyas' backcourt of Cook and Wallace can struggle to contain dribble
penetration, as they did against West Virginia where J.D. Collins handed
out seven assists, nearly double his season average.
The game could come down to whether or not MU's backcourt can outperform
the Georgetown frontcourt. If the MU guards can disrupt the Hoyas'
offensive flow, MU could create a higher tempo game than the Hoyas normally
prefer, which could negate the advantage Hibbert brings to the floor. With
James, McNeal, Fitzgerald, Chapman and Matthews, perhaps coach Tom Crean
will extend the defensive pressure against a Hoyas team that prefers a more
**Note: Article for MarquetteHoops.com by Tim Blair of Cracked Sidewalks,
a Marquette Basketball blog
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