Marquette Wire

PREVIEW: Golden Eagles get another taste of March basketball vs. Oregon

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Marquette will be looking to make it to the NIT semifinals against Penn State for the first time since the 1994-'95 season when coach Mike Deane led the team to a second-place finish.

Marquette will be looking to make it to the NIT semifinals against Penn State for the first time since the 1994-'95 season when coach Mike Deane led the team to a second-place finish.

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Marquette will be looking to make it to the NIT semifinals against Penn State for the first time since the 1994-'95 season when coach Mike Deane led the team to a second-place finish.

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Even though there’s no national championship to play for, the Golden Eagles have adopted the March mantra that have carried so many title hopefuls through the NCAA Tournament: Survive and Advance.

“We’re excited to win a game in March and continue to play,” Wojo said. “There are a lot of people that would change spots with us.”

Marquette’s next opportunity to do that comes today when the Oregon Ducks come to the Al McGuire Center for the National Invitation Tournament’s round of 16. If the Golden Eagles win, they’ll host Penn State on either Monday or Tuesday for a chance to make the consolation tournament’s Final Four at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“I’m just really excited to still be playing with these guys,” sophomore Markus Howard said.

Tipoff is at 3:30 p.m. Central Time on ESPN 2. The game will be played at the Al McGuire Center on Marquette’s campus.
 

LETTING IT FLY

There aren’t that many high-major teams that shoot more 3-pointers than Marquette does. Oregon is one of them. The Ducks are 21st in the country in total 3-point attempts.

Howard, who scored 22 points against Harvard, knows the potency of Oregon’s offense more than most. One of his best friends and former high school competitors, freshman Troy Brown, plays for the Ducks.

“I played club with him since I was about sixth grade,” Howard said. “He’s a great player and they’re a great team.”

Although the Ducks like to take just as many threes as Marquette, their attempts tend to be less accurate. Oregon is shooting a pedestrian 35.8 percent on long balls for the year, which ranks 128th in the country. Marquette is Division I’s third-most accurate 3-point shooting team at 41.5 percent.

The one Oregon player that can fill the scoresheet up with relative ease is sophomore Payton Pritchard, a big contributor to the 2016-’17 Ducks that made the Final Four and their primary scorer this season. Pritchard knocks down threes at a 41.1 percent clip to lead the Ducks in scoring with 14.5 points per game.

 

INJURED FRESHMEN

Marquette’s three freshmen all did their part in the victory over Harvard, but none more so than Jamal Cain, who scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds.

Cain may not be available for the Oregon game after an injury suffered late in the Harvard matchup. With just over three minutes to go, a Crimson defender landed on Cain’s right leg as the freshman rose up for a rebound. He limped off the court and did not return.

“He’s being evaluated,” Wojo said of Cain. “He’s day-to-day until we get further evaluation on his ankle.”

Fellow freshman Greg Elliott is also day-to-day with a leg injury, which he acquired just a minute after Cain left the game. Unlike Cain, Elliott was able to stay in until the final buzzer, although there was not much time left in the game. Elliott finished with three points, a rebound and a steal in 19 minutes.

 

PARTY IN THE AL 

The Al McGuire Center is home to a lot of high-stakes basketball. It’s not usually men’s basketball.

“We are in the Al very little; that’s Carolyn’s gym,” Wojo said in reference to women’s basketball coach Carolyn Kieger. “It’s not a place that we do a lot of stuff in.”

Prior to the Harvard game, Marquette had only ever played one game of any practical significance in the Al McGuire Center: a winter break buy game against Alabama A&M with a stated attendance of 3,080.

That changed for the Golden Eagles’ NIT run. Marquette sold out its 3,700-seat gym within an hour after tickets were released to the public. The same thing happened for the Oregon game.

“This small, kind of compact arena, it was great,” Howard said. “I’m really, really appreciative of all the people that came out … I give a lot of credit to our fans for staying loyal to us and sticking with us through everything.”

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