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Men’s basketball relies on Howard offensively at historic rate

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Men’s basketball relies on Howard offensively at historic rate

Photo by Jordan Johnson

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Photo by Jordan Johnson

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Markus Howard drew plenty of praise after his 45-point performance against No. 12 Kansas State last Saturday, one of the top defensive teams in the country.

This reliance on Howard, who accounted for 54 percent of Marquette’s points, is no new phenomenon for the Golden Eagles. Marquette’s offense has relied on Howard at almost unprecedented rates this season.

Head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s offense uses Howard in 30.5 percent of possessions, per KenPom, a prominent college basketball analytics site. To be “used” in a possession, the player’s actions must result in the end of the possession.

“We want Markus to be aggressive,” Wojciechowski said. “That’s who he is when he’s at his best. That can’t change while he’s learning and growing in other parts of the game.”

No other Marquette player in the five-year Wojciechowski era has been used at that high of a rate. Former guard Andrew Rowsey was the only other player to be used on at least 30 percent of possessions in the last 10 years.

“(His teammates) give (Howard) the ball,” Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said. “The other guys swallow their ego, let him make the plays and get him open.”

The last Marquette player who maintained that level of possessions throughout a season as high as Howard’s was Jerel McNeal in 2006-‘07. The only other players in the last 15 seasons were Travis Diener in 2004-’05 and Dwyane Wade in 2002-’03.

His high-scoring volume has resulted in teams defending Howard more aggressively. In 2017-‘18, Howard drew 4.2 fouls per 40 minutes. After eight games this season, he is drawing 6.5 fouls per 40 minutes.

Howard is at pace to attempt 253 free throws this season. The program record is 279 free throws attempted, which dates back to the 1969-‘70 season.

Howard and teammate Sam Hauser are the only Marquette players to start in every game this season. Hauser has not been needed offensively as much as Howard but has been crucial to Marquette’s improved defense. The duo combined to start 67 games last season.

“(Howard) and Sam on our team have an incredible responsibility,” Wojciechowski said. “They have to steer the ship while these other guys are figuring out where they’re supposed to sit on the ship.”

That responsibility included holding Kansas State star Dean Wade to 11 points on 3-for-7 shooting Saturday. Wade has averaged 15.4 points per game this season on 55-percent shooting.

“Sam was on Wade quite a bit,” Wojciechowski said.

There’s reason to believe that rate might subside to a more sustainable level, however. Newcomers like freshman Brendan Bailey and redshirt junior Ed Morrow have shown more confidence with the ball.

“Brendan and Ed are starting to find their footing,” Wojciechowski said. “The comfortableness on the court seems to be there at a higher level than it was earlier in the season, which is certainly good to see.”

Morrow played at least 15 minutes for the second and third time this season last week against Charleston Southern and Kansas State. Bailey was a minute short of a season high Tuesday, playing 21 minutes against Charleston Southern. Bailey played 12 minutes against a veteran-laden Kansas State team, though.

In the meantime, other coaches have been in awe of Howard’s high-volume scoring.

“He definitely had a special night (Saturday),” Weber said. “You have to give him credit.”

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About the Writer
John Steppe, Executive Sports Editor

John Steppe is the executive sports editor for the Marquette Wire. He is a junior majoring in journalism and double-minoring in digital media and Spanish....

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