The Marquette Golden Eagles (22-4, 11-2) come in to today’s game on a 2 game win streak following wins over the lowly St. John’s Red Storm and Seton Hall Pirates. However, they have also lost two in a row away from the Bradley Center, and the going does not get any easier when they visit the Georgetown Hoyas today (14-10, 5-8). Georgetown is on the bubble of the tourney, but with wins over Memphis, Connecticut and Syracuse, a victory over the Golden Eagles could go a long way into getting them an at-large bid.
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Golden Eagles won in a shootout, 94-82. Wesley Matthews had 19 second half points and Jerel McNeal finished with 26 points and 11 assists. The key to the game was Marquette’s ability to dribble drive and dish to open shooters. Also, drives led to free throw attempts as seen by Marquette going 30-38 from the line in the game. Georgetown shot just 13, hitting 8. If Marquette wants to win, they will need to continue to get to the line and penetrate on a young Georgetown defense.
I have watched Georgetown three times this year, and they have been on three different levels each time. The first time, against UConn, I saw a team that had the swagger of a team that knew they were going to win, and the production to back it up. The second time was against Marquette, and I saw a team that had lost 4 in a row and looked lost on defense. The last time was against Syracuse, where I watched a team against the ropes needing a win and, despite them not pulling off the comeback, they looked hungry. It seems to start with their firestarter in Greg Monroe. While DaJuan Summers and Austin Freeman are bigger names and have more experience, when the freshman is on, this team is tough to stop. In the UConn game, his stat line wasn’t huge but his impact was. He played great defense all night, holding Hasheem Thabeet to just 4 points, and even hit 2 threes on the offensive end. Against Marquette, he looked out of sync, turning the ball over 5 times and getting beat off the dribble by Lazar Hayward. The fire he seemed to lack against Marquette he definitely had back in the Syracuse game, offensively at least. He was MUCH more aggressive going to the bucket, and was tenacious on the glass with 5 offensive rebounds. he seemed to struggle on defense, as I remember Syracuse’s “big man” Arinze Onuaku with some thunderous dunks. He could be the key in this matchup tomorrow and he definitely has me worried.
For Marquette, the two guys I am looking at are Dominic James and Jerel McNeal. While Marquette’s defense has stepped up as of late and I can see both team’s point totals going much lower than last time, continuing to drive the ball on offense will be important for these two guys. McNeal has handed out 7 helpers in each of his last three games and is starting to become a complete player now that teams are focusing much of their attention on him. For James, he has 7.6 assists over his last three games and has improved his passing all year, especially on the fast break. Despite being on the road, Marquette needs to play their game by keeping the tempo up and pushing the ball to the hoop. Lazar Hayward and Wesley Matthews should be open for jumpers, and I hope Lazar looks like he did in the Villanova game, not the Seton Hall game.
This one scares me a lot. While Marquette has a shot to win their first Big East title, there is more on the line for Georgetown in today’s game. The Hoyas being at home makes it that much bigger for them and I can see them coming out firing against a Marquette team that is gearing up for the toughest stretch run in the Big East. I don’t know if Georgetown can keep up with Marquette’s run-n’-gun style, but if the game slows down into half court sets this one could get interesting. One of the biggest keys to the game will be Marquette keeping the tempo up because in the Marquette and Syracuse games, Johnny Flynn and Jerel McNeal beat Georgetown with speed and they had no answer. If Marquette can get this game into the high 70’s or low 80’s, it should be a W. If it goes under that, buckle up for a fantastic finish.
Marquette 77, Georgetown 70