By John Fanta
MILWAUKEE — The hype around Marquette Basketball was as prevalent as it’s ever been since Steve Wojciechowski took the reigns of the program in 2014. Could the Golden Eagles turn their experience into results? Could they take steps forward defensively that “Wojo” has been striving for in his five years?
The Golden Eagles are answering those two questions with an emphatic “yes.” On Sunday, they didn’t play their A-game. They still won handily, and in the Big East, that’s saying something. The 15th-ranked Golden Eagles (16-3, 5-1) didn’t fret with an eight-point deficit at the half, outscoring Providence 54-35 in the second stanza to take a 79-68 victory. The Friars dropped to 11-7 overall and 1-4 in Big East play with the loss. Marquette moved to 13-0 inside their new home, Fiserv Forum.
“They (Providence) out-worked, out-competed and out-executed us in the first half by a large margin,” said Wojciechowski. “You’ve got to find a way to win when you’re a little bit off from who you normally are.”
To his point, the Friars held Marquette to just 7-of-25 in the first half while dominating the glass, 27-14. Markus Howard, who returned after leaving Tuesday’s Georgetown game with a back injury, was held to just 4-of-15 shooting on the afternoon. The junior still finished with 24 points on 14 free throws, but was not his normal self from the field.
All that said, Wojciechowski has not one Hauser, but two at his disposal. The duo was the difference.
With 6:24 on the clock and Marquette up 54-51, Sam and Joey took over, scoring 19 of the 23 points on a run that spanned just less than five minutes of game and pulled the Golden Eagles ahead 77-66. Sam finished with 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, giving him 56 points in the junior’s last two games and making him a frontrunner for Big East Player of the Week. Joey added 11 points – eight of which came on that closing surge – and three dishes.
“Winning is the priority for them (Hauser brothers),” said Wojciechowski. “That may seem like a simple thing, but it’s not common. With those two guys, it is.”
“The Hauser’s make Marquette really tough because they can spread the floor,” echoed Providence’s Ed Cooley, who knows a thing or two about making the Big Dance. He’s taken the Friars to five in a row. “You know when you’re facing an NCAA Tournament team, and that’s an NCAA Tournament team,” he added. “They’re going to be hell to play with, especially if they’re not scouted. If you don’t know what they’re trying to do, you’re in for a rough night.”
It seemed like Cooley had them scouted out, considering the 25-point first half was a season-low for Marquette. But, talent trumps all, and as Cooley said, “their experience showed.”
For Sam Hauser, the second half comeback win over Providence is the best kind, because there’s things the Golden Eagles can work on moving forward.
“We can’t be satisfied,” said Hauser. “There’s a lot more season left, and there’s a lot more we want to accomplish as well. There’s always something you can be better at, and that’s this team’s mindset.”
Admittedly, Hauser said that in previous seasons, the Golden Eagles may not have gutted out a 2-0 week, with Howard and Ed Morrow out of the Georgetown game and Providence making them work the way the Friars did. That said, it’s the efforts that speak volumes about why this Marquette team’s 5-1 record, and pursuit for a Big East regular season crown, is absolutely legit.
It’s why fans should be marking their calendars now for Saturday, February 9, when the Golden Eagles welcome the reigning national champions to Fiserv Forum for the first meeting. With Villanova at 5-0, and Marquette at 5-1, the possibilities of a showdown for first already have fans clamoring.
The Golden Eagles are backing up the anticipation for the season, and it’s only going to get more fun from here in Milwaukee.
PHOTO: Steve Wojciechowski/apwire.com