MU 95 Houston Bap 64

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Don't know anything about Marquette's first opponent, the Houston Baptist Huskies? Well you shouldn't take them lightly. Marco Radenkovich tells us why.

The Marquette Golden Eagles open up their 2008-2009 season against the Houston Baptist Huskies on Friday night. The Huskies are in their second season of Division I basketball, but the former NAIA powerhouse comes to Milwaukee with a better team than you'd think.

"I wouldn't have scheduled the game if I knew I would have been head coach," Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams said. "They're talented. This isn't your typical home opener at the Bradley Center."

Head Coach:

Ron Cottrell (18th season)– Hired in 1988-1989, he resurrected the Huskies' program by leading them to nine consecutive conference championships and guiding them to the D-I level. Cottrell enters this season with 374 wins, averaging over 22 wins per season.

He runs an up-tempo game on both ends of the floor. His teams like to run on offense, a style supported by a pressure defense that forces a lot of turnovers.

Top Players:

G – Gordon Watt – A 6'6'' senior from Evanston, Ill., Watt was their leading scorer and rebounder a year ago, averaging 16.4 points-per-game (ppg) and 8.0 rebounds-per-game (rpg). Watt began his career at Boston College, transferred to Purdue and now finds himself at Houston Baptist.

"Gordon Watt can play in every league in the country," Williams said. "When they throw it to Watt, they get really good results."

However, oftentimes the result can be a turnover. Last season Watt had 56 giveaway compared to 48 assists. He also has a tough time staying out of foul trouble, as he fouled out of four games last season. Marquette would be best served to go right at him early.

F – Emmanuel Willis – Willis, originally from Mississippi, signed out of high school with USC. After one season there, he went to Auburn, then last year he made the jump to HBU. As their main post player, he averaged 11.4 ppg and 6.4 rpg in 2007-08. The long and athletic senior played last year fresh off of knee surgery and is eager to make a bigger impact this year. He has a knack for blocking shots, as he averaged a little less than two blocks per game last year. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he'll be a tough matchup for the Golden Eagles.

G – Baron Sauls – The 6'2'' Sauls is a great complement to Willis and Watt on the perimeter. Although he can be a streaky shooter, Sauls shot 40.3% from three and 51.6 percent overall from the field last season. One of the few guys with more assists than turnovers on the team, Sauls distributes the ball well. On defense, he will likely be guarding Jerel McNeal or Wes Matthews, and both of those players should be able to use their size advantage to notch a few early buckets.

G – Justin Wilson –This quick point guard measures out at 5'6'' and 170 and his job is to push the ball at all times. His stats don't show that he can shoot well or defend particularly well, and his quickness should be negated by Marquette's point guards, Dominic James and Maurice Acker.

G – Sean Morris – Williams should know Morris well, as the 5'10" guard comes to HBU by way of Colorado State and New Orleans. Morris scores most of his points from inside the three-point line. And he has the potential to light up the scoreboard, as a career-high 33 points last season against Dallas Baptist can attest. He also has a reputation as a smart basketball player

G/F – Andrew Puzyk – Another shooter, Purzyk made 43.9 percent from beyond the arc last season and led the team with 72 three-pointers made. He shot 48% from the field and 78% from the line, but rarely shot from the charity stripe.

Conclusion:

This team will surprise you. HBU is a very complete team, with a lot of role players to complement Willis and Watt, and on any given night one of them could step up with a key performance. Every one of the aforementioned players recorded a single-game high in the upper 20's and low 30's last season. They are also a senior-laden team.

The Golden Eagles may sweat this one out if they don't come ready with their A game. However, if the Huskies' star players get in early foul trouble, as they are prone to doing, Marquette could coast to an easy win.

Marquette may play a lot of combinations of Acker, James and Cubillan on the court to combat HBU's quickness and lack of size. Regardless, it should be a fast paced, exciting game.

My final prediction: MU 83 – HBU 74. McNeal leads the way with 21 points, and Hayward chips in 17.

Marco Radenkovich is a junior majoring in supply chain management.


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