By Rich Ruben
Marquette swamped SC 101-79, in a fast paced game which was over before halftime. The Golden Eagles were only a 4 1/2 point favorite, but dominated almost the entire game. The Trojans trailed by 30 at the half; they made a couple runs to get as close as 13 in the second half, but it never felt as if SC had a chance to win. 5’11” Golden Eagle guard Markus Howard followed up his 40 point performance against Davidson in the first round of the Orlando Invitational by scoring 51 against the Trojans, and left the game for good with about 5 1/2 minutes left.
The Trojans actually came out with some life for the first five minutes and led by as many as 6, but they slowed down and Howard did not. Marquette shot 48.6% from the field, which included 14-29 from three. In comparison SC made 3-12 threes, and eight less field goals overall. The far bigger Trojans were also out rebounded by 9, and had only 5 assists for the game.
There are very few positives from this game. Isaiah Mobley played perhaps his best game, with 15 points and 9 rebounds. Kyle Sturdivant played well, scoring 11 points in only 11 minutes, his best outing so far this season, and SC made 75% of their free throws.
Among the many negatives were Isaiah and Onyeka Okongwu both fouling out, following Nick Rakocevic who was ejected with two technical fouls after playing only 15 minutes. Both of Nick’s T’s appeared to be from frustration. The first was on a double technical when Nick and a Marquette player shoved each other after a play was over. The second was unforgettable- he jumped off the bench and onto the court to protest a foul call at the other end. As the camera moved down the bench looking for the culprit, most SC fans probably knew who it would be.
Howard was spectacular. He made 14-24 shots, including 9-17 from three, and also made 14-17 from the line. 51 points on 24 shots is remarkable, and though most of his shots were from long range, he also made a couple floaters and a couple at the rim. The Trojans tried many different defenders and a zone for a good portion of the game, and it made no difference. No one seemed to bother Howard at all.
The Trojans did very little right. The bigs missed many inside shots, and the guards kept driving to the rim throughout the first half and losing the ball, getting their shots blocked, or throwing up wild shots that had no chance to find the basket. If some games have a teachable moment or two, this game was such a mess that the coaches may not bother to watch the film, and choose to move on. Troy plays a good Harvard team in the third place game on Sunday. Harvard only lost to fifth ranked Maryland by 7 on Friday., after leading at the half. Harvard’s BPI was 79 before the games this weekend, and is likely higher now.
What We Learned About The Trojans
Through Eight Games, SC Is Not As Good As We Thought
Even though they are 6-2, the Trojans have generally not played up to their talent level. The veterans especially have been far too inconsistent and are making bad mistakes Nick went from PAC 12 player of the week two weeks ago to getting ejected on Ts. He has either played at a high level, or has not contributed a lot. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. Jonah Mathews and Elijah Weaver have not found their outside shots on a consistent basis. Jonah was 1-9 from the field against Marquette and Elijah 3-10, and they both made only one three. The two grad transfers, Quinton Adlesh and Daniel Utomi, also have not shot the ball well at all.
Too Much May Have Been Expected From The Freshmen
The Trojans have a great group of freshman players, including two five star big men and a 6’8” wing who was a top 50 recruit. Three of the five have played a lot so far, Big O, Isaiah and point guard Ethan Anderson. These three have generally played well, but not well enough to carry the team, and none of their games are finished products. Big O is a better rebounder and shot blocker than a polished offensive player at this point, though he is a good free throw shooter. He has a soft touch around the basket, but also misses some shots badly. Isaiah is a very good ball handler for his size, and has an array of shots near the rim and from mid range, but gets beat on defense inside and for rebounds because he is not as physical as he will be. Ethan has contributed more than expected. He handles the ball well most of the time, and is very athletic, but he is not a good outside shooter and at times tries to make passes or drives which aren’t available. In the last three games he is not getting many assists, and is turning the ball over. Against Marquette, he had only 2 assists and 4 TOs. All three need to and should improve as the season goes on. Kyle may get more playing time after this game, though he is a point guard and didn’t have an assist in his 11 minutes.
The Experienced Guards Need to Make Shots
The biggest concern on offense hasn’t changed since the Trojans arrived in Orlando. Until Jonah, Elijah, Quinton and Daniel begin to consistently make outside shots, the defenses can continue to sag on the bigs and take away driving lanes from the guards. Improvement in this one area alone would make a very big difference.
This Loss Was Primarily Due To One Magnificent Marquette Player
Other than Howard, the Golden Eagles were 18-42 from the field. The Trojans can probably live with that, and even those numbers are somewhat inflated because Marquette made several baskets from close range after SC’s three bigs were all gone, including a few on offensive put backs.
The Trojans Need To Improve Quickly
There are only five non conference games left, including the Sunday game against Harvard, a road game at TCU, and a match up at Staples against LSU. The conference season begins on January 2. It would greatly improve SC’s resume to win at least two of the above three games. The conference is much stronger this year, with several teams are playing very well. Conference wins, especially on the road, will be tough to come by. Only two of SC’s next seven games are at home.
Markus Howard may be the best scoring guard in the country. He averaged 25 ppg last year, and it looks like he will do even better this season. The Trojans ran into a Howard buzz saw on Friday, and it may be best to just move on. A win on Sunday will allow the team to return home with a pair of wins and allow them to forget Marquette. It’s very early in the year to label any game as crucial, but Sunday’s game against a good Harvard team takes on added importance after the poor showing on Friday.