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Marquette enters conference play hot, stumbles early

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Marquette enters conference play hot, stumbles early

Photo by Cassie Rogala/cassandra.rogala@marquette.edu

Photo by Cassie Rogala/cassandra.rogala@marquette.edu

Photo by Cassie Rogala/cassandra.rogala@marquette.edu

Photo by Cassie Rogala/cassandra.rogala@marquette.edu

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Marquette showed some encouraging signs of progress during the semester break, but countered it with some disheartening losses to open Big East play. The Golden Eagles went 5-2 during the month-long lay off from classes and scored some good home victories against Arizona State on Dec. 16 and Big East foe Providence on Jan. 3.

It wasn’t all great for the Golden Eagles, as they failed to capture a true road victory in two defeats against conference rivals DePaul and Georgetown.

The Golden Eagles received a boost from sophomore Luke Fischer, who made his Marquette debut against the Sun Devils in the team’s first game of break after sitting out the entire first semester. Fischer scored 19 points in his first appearance of the season and nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds.

Fischer’s presence has changed things drastically for Marquette. The 6-foot-11 center provides a semblance of height the Golden Eagles lacked during the first eight games of the season, when 6-foot-7 Steve Taylor was the tallest player on the roster.

Fischer provided a reliable option offensively and has a versatile scoring ability. Fischer is shooting nearly 82 percent from the floor, which is one of the highest percentages in the NCAA. Defensively, Fischer has been a proven rim protector. He is averaging 2.4 blocks in seven games and altered many others.

Marquette has played noticeably better with Fischer in the rotation. In the eight games prior to Fischer’s debut, the Golden Eagles went 4-4 and averaged 66.3 points per game while allowing an average of 68.5 points per game. Marquette is 5-2 in seven games with the big man, with an average of 71.6 points per game and a 59.5 points per game allowed average.

The year of transition continued for Marquette as sophomores Deonte Burton and John Dawson opted to leave the program at the end of the semester. Burton transferred to Iowa State, while Dawson chose to play at Liberty University. These latest departures left the team with only eight eligible players, excluding walk-ons Michael and Matthew Mache.

Both sophomores played marginal roles, but Burton was the bigger loss. He showed plenty of potential in his freshman campaign under Buzz Williams, but played sparingly under new coach Steve Wojciechowski. Burton was a prolific offensive player, but his lack of defensive awarness cost him precious playing time. Dawson logged only four minutes all season.

Marquette played its best stretch of the year to conclude non-conference play and rattled off four consecutive victories over Arizona State, Alabama A&M, North Dakota and Morgan State, all at home.

The impressive streak came to a halt when Marquette stubbed its toe in its Big East opener on the road against DePaul. The Golden Eagles led by 12 points with 13 minutes to go, but fell apart down the stretch as the Blue Demons outscored them 27-12 to steal a 61-58 upset. It was Marquette’s first loss to the Blue Demons since the 2009-10 season.

Marquette bounced back in its conference home opener by defeating Providence 75-66, but fell to Georgetown 65-59 in Washington, D.C. last Tuesday night.

The Golden Eagles begin the spring semester 9-6 overall and 1-2 in the Big East. Marquette ranks ninth in the conference in scoring offense and fifth in defense. The Golden Eagles are 116th in RPI and 94th in Ken Pomeroy’s team rankings.

Marquette has its work cut out for it as school resumes, as two of its next three games are on the road. Road victories have been hard to come by in the Big East, as the home team is 14-5 through the first 19 games of conference play. The Golden Eagles begin the new semester with a visit from the Creighton Bluejays Wednesday night at 8 p.m. before road games against Xavier and St. John’s.

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