The worst part of any vacation is coming back. Such was life to start this week for Marquette Basketball.
After an impressive showing in the Maui Invitational, things went downhill over Thanksgiving weekend. That’s when junior guard Haanif Cheatham made it known to head coach Steve Wojciechowski that he had to leave the program.
The shadiness we all know goes on in college hoops makes us a little cynical, but Wojciechowski’s tone when he said he “wishes good health on all that [Cheatham] loves” tells me this had very little to do with basketball. It is what it is, and this is one of those moments when we need to remind ourselves there are a lot of worldly things more important than putting basketballs through hoops. Hopefully whatever is up for Cheatham can be resolved by his transferring closer to home, while Marquette will simply have to live without a glue guy who was a one of its better defenders and a better-than-most secondary scoring option to Sam Hauser, Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard. Given the circumstances, attempting to list Cheatham alongside other style- or personality-related transfers like Deonte Burton and Sandy Cohen as a potential indictment against Wojciechowski is misguided.
The Cheatham news didn’t become public until Monday, just hours before Marquette went up against Eastern Illinois. Perhaps partly because of the news, Marquette looked like a team that was not just minus a starter but also a little stunned to have suddenly lost part of its core. Tired legs from three hard-fought games, a long flight and a holiday the week before also likely played in as MU put forth a clunker against EIU. The team looked slow. It had a few very bad turnovers that reeked of lacking concentration. Rowsey in particular seemed off. He had missed just three free throws on the season prior to Monday. He missed three in the EIU game alone.
Marquette never led in the second half and was lucky to make a late charge to tie the game and send it to OT. Hauser was the one guy for whom the virtual alarm clock sounded, aided by some good Greg Elliott defense. In the extra period, things finally came together, and Marquette escaped with an 86-83 win. Wojo didn’t want to use Maui as an excuse, but did point out, after each of his five trips to the Maui Invitational with Duke and Marquette, the first game back has been a stinker for all five teams.
On the surface, Monday’s effort was an unpleasant surprise. But because jetlag is real, with the added weight of the Cheatham news, it wasn’t a total shock or a huge disappointment. As much as we like to believe basketball players are just tall collections of statistics, they’re humans, too.
In the end, that idea was proven last night. With things a little more settled, Marquette demolished Chicago State, 95-69. Howard set a program record for individual three-pointers in a game with 11, while the team broke the school mark with 18. Also, the occasionally maligned defense held Chicago State to just 29 percent shooting in the second half.
The win is why Marquette fans should probably see Monday’s game as an anomaly, the result of a team missing both some energy and a key player.
That said, Marquette now faces a big test when Georgia comes to town Saturday. The Bulldogs bring a nice 5-1 record and plenty of rest after going 2-1 and beating ranked St. Mary’s in the consolation game of the Wooden Legacy tournament Sunday. Last year’s dominant 89-79 win for Marquette over Georgia was a highlight on MU’s tournament resume, but this UGA team looks better than last year’s. Expect a battle, followed Tuesday by a potential trap game against Vermont.
HAUSER CALL: One thing that got lost in the shuffle of all the goings on Monday was that it was technically the second-straight game where Hauser’s ability to carry Marquette on his back made the difference. Go back to Marquette’s third-place game win against LSU in Maui and remember that Hauser started aflame to help Marquette stay ahead of Tremont Waters and a fast-scoring LSU team.
It was Hauser who was most impressive in Marquette’s hurricane exhibition win over Milwaukee. It was Hauser who had to sit with three fouls in the first half of Marquette’s loss to Wichita State, which took him out of his rhythm in one of Marquette’s two losses this season. Hauser was quiet last night, but with Howard going bonkers, he didn’t need to be the man. Still, in key games, as Hauser goes, so seems to go Marquette.
LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR THING: Rowsey and #TheThing — the term for Rowsey’s act of drawing a three-shot foul after pump-faking a three — are now officially a thing. In fact, Anonymous Eagle has even questioned whether #TheThing is now too much of a thing. However, there’s been some confusion about variations of #TheThing. Here’s how I’ve decided to interpret this going forward:
- #TheThing: A pump-fake on a three-pointer, resulting in the defender fouling the shooter as a result of the fake, while the shooter follows the fake with a three-point try that draws free throws. The shot may (one free throw) or may not (three) fall.
- #TheThingPlusOne: When #TheThing results in a made three pointer. A sub-genre of #TheThing. Note that this has occurred, but the hashtag hasn’t been used. Yet.
- #TheMiniThing: Same as #TheThing, but inside the arc. Still has to be a jumper from some distance.
- #NotTheThing: When Rowsey gets fouled while taking a three, but without the pump fake.
- #TheOtherThing: When Sacar Anim falls down in the act of scoring. Explained here. A totally different thing.
- #TheKindaThing: When Rowsey gets fouled outside the arc and appears to be trying to set up #TheThing, but doesn’t get free throws.
Please note that references to any of the following are also allowable when discussing #TheThing:
- The Thing: A 1982 film, starring Kurt Russell and directed by John Carpenter.
- Doo-Wop (That Thing): A 1998 song by Lauryn Hill.
- That Thing You Do! A tremendously quotable 1996 Tom Hanks film. A Drew Olson favorite.
Not allowable as a reference: This. Click at your own peril, preferably while not at work.
And with that, do prepare for a Marquette/Wisconsin preview blog next week.
Photo: Getty Images