The Golden Eagles return to the hardwood Tuesday night for game two of the 2008 Chicago Invitational when they host the Texas Southern Tigers (0-3) out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
No. 15/15 Marquette (3-0) enters the contest averaging 100 points per game (ppg) in their first three game – good for the fourth-best scoring offense in the country and the best among Big East teams. Their 100-80 victory over UWM on Saturday marked the first time since the 1954-1955 season that the Golden Eagles has posted consecutive 100-point scoring outputs.
Senior guard Jerel McNeal contends that the scoring has come as a result of their high pressure.
"While it may not seem like it at times, a lot of the baskets that we score are still predicated off of our defense," said McNeal after the win over UW-Milwaukee. "When we're getting those first shot rebounds, we're one of the hardest teams in the country to guard on the break."
Marquette has once again made getting out on the break a trademark thanks to the 19 turnovers per game they force. The team has averaged 25 fast break points per game and has bought into Buzz Williams' philosophy of creating as many possessions as possible. In their first three match-ups, Marquette is averaging an impressive 82.5 possessions per game, up from 68 per game a year ago.
"I think it's a hard combination," Williams said. "I'm asking them to play like junk yard dogs on defense. And then I'm asking them to run really, really fast on offense once we secure the defensive rebound."
With injuries sidelining freshman center Chris Otule and sophomore forward Joe Fulce, even more running is being asked of Lazar Hayward and Wes Matthews, and from the forward position to boot.
Both have responded better than anyone could have imagined.
Hayward has been a double-double machine to start the season, averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds in Marquette's first three games. And Matthews, statistically the weakest of the "Big Three" coming into the season, has started his senior campaign on a furious scoring binge. His 26 ppg average stands at fourth in the nation.
"[Wes] has been an unbelievable practice player," said Williams. "And perfect practice ends up being revealed during a game. That's what has happed as it relates to Wes."
Texas Southern, on the other hand, is a team moving very much in the opposite direction. The Tigers are 0-1 in the Chicago Invite following a 74-67 loss at Northern Iowa last Sunday. They also suffered a 31-point bludgeoning at the hands of Cincinnati on November 18.
Similar to the Golden Eagles, they are led on offense by a talented trio of players. Senior power forward Michael Drewy paces the Tigers frontcourt with close to a double-double per game (9 ppg, 9 rbg), while junior DeAndre Hall (16 ppg) and senior Matt Miller hold down the backcourt.
Miller, TSU's point guard, is coming off a 28 point, eight assist effort against Northern Iowa in which he also shot 7-of-8 from beyond the arc. His scoring ability should test Marquette's suspect perimeter defense.
Tip off is set for 7:00 pm at the Bradley Center.
Brian Henry is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. He is also the Sports Director of Marquette Radio.