Last year, Marquette played the Connecticut Huskies on the road on February 24th, and took them down in overtime.
That Connecticut team and this year’s, at this point in the season, are quite similar.
This year’s Huskies have struggled scoring mightily. Before their 80-54 win against DePaul, they averaged 57.3 points in their previous six games, winning just one of those.
Last year’s team, when they lost to Marquette, was in the middle of a five-game stretch where they averaged only 63 points.
The difference: Kemba Walker.
Connecticut last year could just rely on their senior leader to make plays when necessary, and to take over the game whenever they needed a clutch basket. This team doesn’t have that go-to-guy, and has been all over the place offensively.
This year’s leading scorer is sophomore Jeremy Lamb, whose coming out party might have been last season when the Huskies took down Marquette at the Bradley Center in January.
Lamb is fifth in the Big East in scoring with 17.2 points per game, and at 6-foot-5 presents a unique skill set, with his length and athleticism. Lamb stays out on the perimeter most of the time, where he has struggled, shooting only 33.8 percent from beyond the arc. Lamb is a 47.5 percent shooter on the season, but converts 60 percent of his shots from inside the arc. Lamb will present a difficult match-up for Marquette, and Will Likely find himself dealing with a lot of Vander Blue all afternoon.
The Huskies have a dangerous duo of point guards in sophomore Shabazz Napier and freshman Ryan Boatright.
Napier saw time last year as Walker’s backup, also playing with him a lot of the time, and has posted impressive numbers in his first season as a starter. Although only a 39.4 percent shooter, Napier averages 13 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.8 assists.
Many see his fellow backcourt mate, Boatright, as a key to the Huskies’ offense. He averages 10.4 points per game, shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three-point land. He averaged 17 points and 5 assists in their three games against Seton Hall, Syracuse, and Louisville, before scoring only 7, then dishing out 7 assists, against DePaul in their last game.
This trio in Connecticut’s backcourt appears to be having good seasons, but they are not what is wrong with UConn’s offense. They have little or no help scoring on some nights. If they get any, it’s from freshman sensation Andre Drummond.
Drummond was a late-commit to the program in the summer, and had very high expectations put on him. He’s looked quite unpolished at times this year, but still is averaging 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds.
At 6-foot-10, 270 pounds, though, Drummond is going to give Marquette an incredibly difficult time. Possibly without Davante Gardner again, the Golden Eagles may be playing a bit more zone defense than usual, as they have nobody above 6’6” to match-up with Drummond outside of “the Ox.”
Because of Drummond’s arrival, Alex Oriakhi has seen his minutes and numbers decrease significantly.
After playing a big part on a team that won a National Championship, Oriakhi is only playing 20.3 minutes per game (down from 29.1 last year), scoring 6.7 points (down from 9.6 last year), and is grabbing 5 rebounds (down from 8.7 last year, and 6.6 his freshman year). The junior has even been benched this year, but still, the Golden Eagles will be plenty wary of the 6-foot-9 junior’s capability down low.
Sophomore big man Tyler Olander has stepped up for the Huskies this year, playing more minutes than Oriakhi at 21.6. Olander also is averaging 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds, and is a scrappy player down low that the ball sometimes just finds its way to. What that means: he can be very annoying for the opposition.
6-foot-8 freshman DeAndre Daniels is averaging 14.5 minutes, along with 3.8 points and 2.6 rebounds, while German sophomore Niels Giffey (6-foot-7) is getting 12.7 minutes per game, scoring 2.9 points.
Sophomore Roscoe Smith is most famous for throwing the ball 80 feet down the court last year at Texas with about 10 seconds left. Like Oriakhi, he’s seen his minutes decrease as well this season from his freshman year, playing only 15.5 this year, after 25.4 last season. After averaging 6.3 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman, Smith is at 3.5 points and 3.2 rebounds during this season.
Trebby’s Keys to the Game for Marquette
1. Contain Drummond/Get him in foul trouble: Jae Crowder and Jamil Wilson won’t be able to guard Andre Drummond one-on-one, so they’ll need to do a lot of helping on him. His amazing athleticism is like no one Marquette has seen this year. Getting him in early foul trouble would be nice, but with his superior size and leaping ability, that may be quite difficult to actually do.
2. Make Jeremy Lamb feel Blue: Vander Blue is going to be guarding Jeremy Lamb (I presume) on Saturday afternoon, and he’s going to do a pretty good job on him I think. It’s crucial that he does. Blue needs to be his typical aggressive self on the defensive end, and frustrate Lamb from the tip.
3. Get out in transition early and often: This has only to do with Marquette. When they play their game, they’re incredibly difficult to beat. Junior Cadougan and Darius Johnson-Odom need to get out in transition right from the tip, and make the Huskies know they’re going to have to work on defense. The Golden Eagles are at their best on the move, and with Connecticut’s size advantage, this is a must if they want to him in Hartford.