Fischer’s production declining since start of Big East play


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After a long-awaited arrival, sophomore center Luke Fischer began his career at Marquette with a 19-point performance in a home victory against Arizona State Dec. 16. Fischer followed up his debut with a 22-point effort on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting against Alabama A&M.

Fischer’s presence changed the dynamic on both ends of the floor for the Golden Eagles, whose tallest player during the first semester schedule was 6-foot-7 Steve Taylor Jr. Fischer averaged 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and three blocks in his first four games at Marquette.

Fischer’s stat line has been reduced by about half in Marquette’s seven Big East games. Since New Year’s Eve, Fischer is averaging 7.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

There are multiple reasons for Fischer’s decline in production during Big East play. The most obvious reason is a significant increase in competition. Fischer is facing much stiffer competition against Big East centers such as Xavier’s Matt Stainbrook, St. John’s Chris Obekpa and Georgetown’s Joshua Smith. The best big man Fischer faced in his four non-conference opponents was Arizona State’s Eric Jacobsen, who is averaging only 9.9 points and 6.5 boards per game. The physicality of the Big East could be an adjustment for Fischer, who is essentially playing his first true season.

Big East foes took notice of Fischer’s impressive debut. On some occasions, opponents are planning their defensive strategy around stopping Fischer. He has seen a good amount of double teams in the low post which has forced him to immediately kick it back out to the perimeter before he can make a post move.

These double teams are in part because of Marquette’s inconsistent scoring along the perimeter. Graduate student Matt Carlino has been gaudy as of late, but the rest of Fischer’s supporting cast has not drawn much attention away from the block.

Fischer’s touches have been limited by this defensive emphasis. After attempting 31 field goals in his first four games of the season, Fischer has attempted just 38 shots in the last seven games. Fischer’s shooting percentage in conference play is more than 55 percent, but since the Jan. 6 matchup at Georgetown, Fischer is shooting only 30 percent. The Golden Eagles have lost three of those four games during Fischer’s slump.

The biggest issue Fischer is dealing with during the conference slate is foul trouble. Fischer committed at least three fouls in six of the seven conference games. He fouled out with 5.9 seconds left in Saturday’s game against Georgetown, which forced Marquette to utilize a small lineup to contain the 350-pound Smith.

Coach Steve Wojciechowski emphasized how much Fischer’s absence in overtime affected the outcome of the loss.

“Luke’s one of our best players,” Wojciechowski said. “Luke really protects the rim and we’re very small. Some of the lineups on the floor, especially without Luke, are tiny. But, that’s the way it is.”

There are a few ways Marquette could eliminate the pressure Fischer commands from defenses. The Golden Eagles could utilize a pick-and-roll offense against man defense that will force defenders to move and switch men. This could generate high-percentage looks for the guards off the drive with Fischer as the outlet for a pass an easy look.

Against zone defenses, Marquette could take a page out of Xavier’s playbook and use Fischer as a high-post facilitator. Stainbrook did an excellent job of finding the open shooter along the perimeter when Marquette collapsed on him in the zone. This was a big reason Xavier slipped past Marquette earlier in the month and could be a unique way of combating a zone defense. Marquette has good 3-point shooters in Carlino and freshman guard Duane Wilson who could make opponents pay for overplaying the center.

Marquette will need more from Fischer if it hopes to contend in a wide open Big East conference. The key to freeing up Fischer may hinge on consistent scoring from the outside that will force opponents to respect Marquette from all over the floor, not just in the paint.