Marquette eases past Houston Baptist despite Fischer injury

The Marquette Golden Eagles extended their home winning streak to four games with their 101-79 victory over the Houston Baptist Huskies Saturday night.

The Golden Eagles hit the ground running, scoring 14 seconds into the game via a Luke Fischer and-one.  Unlike Tuesday’s win in which IUPUI had the lead for more than four minutes, the Golden Eagles held the lead for the rest of the game.

“We had some easy baskets to start, and we were playing good defense too so that got us going right away,” Fischer said.  “Once we string together stops and get good, easy buckets, that lifts our offense, creates a strong defense and produces easy points.”

This early offensive spurt helped the Golden Eagles score 56 points in the first half, the second highest single-half total this season.

The team’s excellent transition offense also contributed to the team’s high scoring impact, as Marquette outscored Houston Baptist in that regard, 16-2.

“If our defense is able to create some offense, that’s really good, but even on missed shots, we want to get the ball down the floor or try to score before the other team gets set,” Wojciechowski said.  “It’s something we work on and hopefully it does translate into (the Georgia and Wisconsin) games.”

Marquette also had the benefit of Houston Baptist big man Josh Ibarra being in foul trouble early.

“We felt like we could attack inside,” Fischer said.  “Their big guy is very good and we wanted to get him in foul trouble early and that’s exactly what we did, so we wanted to continue that all first half.”

“Luke really was a big-time presence for us on the offensive end,” Wojciechowski said.

Ibarra’s foul trouble led to multiple scoring droughts lasting at least three minutes for Houston Baptist in the first half.

After holding a 23-point lead at halftime, the team could not keep up the same defensive intensity, allowing Houston Baptist to outscore them 46-45 in the second frame.

“We’re trying to build habits,” Wojciechowski said.  “In order to build really good habits, you have to do it all the time, and I didn’t feel like we had the same intensity or attention to detail on the defensive end (in the second half).”

“I’ll give (Houston Baptist some credit), they hit some really tough shots,” Wojciechowski continued.  “But we certainly didn’t play defense the way we wanted to in the second half.”

The Golden Eagles had a scare when senior center Luke Fischer injured his shoulder on a foul by Houston Baptist guard Will Gates, Jr.  He’s the son of Marquette alum and Hoop Dreams star Will Gates, who was also in attendance.

“They just came down on my arm pretty hard,” Fischer said.  “I felt a little pain in there, but other than that, nothing major.”

Fischer returned a few minutes later to the floor but did not re-enter the game.  He is not expected to miss any time from the injury.

“I ended up tweaking it a little bit at the start of the season in practice and it’s been a minor reoccurring thing,” Fischer said.  “We do as much as we can to get it better… hopefully it never does happen again.”

Fischer ended the night with an impressive stat line despite the injury, scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in just 19 minutes.  The only other Golden Eagles to score double-digits were Jajuan Johnson with 22 points, Haanif Cheatham with 21 points and Markus Howard with 13 points.

“Luke’s a veteran, so when you see him play with strength and force, it gives everyone else confidence,” Wojciechowski said.  “We need that from Luke, and it’s not always going to be 22 points and 11 rebounds in 19 minutes.”

As Marquette suited up, the starting lineup once again had a few changes.  Fischer returned to the lineup to make his fourth start of the season, and Wilson made his first start of the season.

“When you have guys that really buy into (practice and preparation), you reward them,” Wojciechowski said.  “I thought (the starters) really prepared the best out of anyone on our team.”

While Wilson did not match Fischer’s scoring output, his five assists and team-centric play impressed both Fischer and Wojciechowski.

“I was really pleased with Duane’s decision-making and his ability to embrace the opportunity to impact the game in more than just scoring,” Wojciechowski said. “Even though he didn’t shoot well, he still played a really good floor game and made good decisions and that has to be what he sticks to.”

With this win, Marquette is now on a two-game winning streak after returning from a difficult outing at the 2k Classic.

“Obviously New York didn’t go the way we wanted it to go,” Fischer said.  “To bounce back like we’ve had these past two games have really been important to us and we just have to continue that finishing out the month and heading into December.”

Marquette will host Western Carolina Wednesday.  Western Carolina is the second consecutive team on Marquette’s schedule that KenPom ranks below 300.  KenPom gives MU a 98 percent chance of winning Wednesday’s contest.