Steve Wojciechowski

Marquette lands four-star forward

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With Luke Fischer, Marquette’s top returning scorer and rebounder, set to graduate this spring, the Golden Eagles’ coaching staff put an emphasis on landing big men for the class of 2017.

In a span of five days, Marquette has landed two forwards, the latter being Jamal Cain, a four-star forward from Michigan. The 6-foot-7 Cain announced his commitment on Saturday evening via Twitter.

Earlier this week, Theo John made his pledge to the Golden Eagles, joining fellow three-star commit Ike Eke in Marquette’s current recruiting class.

As Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed out, Marquette’s attempts to bolster its frontline are far from over, even after the events of this week. Hasahn French, a four-star power forward from Springfield Commonwealth Academy (Massachusetts), was on an official visit this weekend. The Golden Eagles are in the mix with UNLV, Saint Louis, VCU, UMass and Minnesota for the services of the rim-rocking forward. Xavier Tillman, another four-star forward from Michigan, is set for an official visit to Marquette next weekend.

Since taking the reigns in 2014, Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski has landed five four-star recruits, as well as Henry Ellenson, the eventual first-round pick, who was a consensus five-star prospect in the Class of 2015.

Guard Wally Ellenson leaves Marquette program

Jackson State's Chace Franklin (1) and Marquette's Wally Ellenson watch a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
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Normally when a player who averaged 1.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in just under nine minutes per game leaves a program, his name simply goes onto the “available transfers” lists on the internet without much thought. But when that player is the older brother of a freshman expected to be selected in the NBA Draft lottery, not to mention also has a great deal of potential in another sport, it grabs attention.

That’s the case of Marquette redshirt junior guard Wally Ellenson, who on Thursday left the program according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. A two-sport athlete who began his college career in basketball and the high jump at Minnesota, Wally’s departure comes just over two weeks after younger brother Henry announced his intentions to forego his final three years of eligibility and enter the 2016 NBA Draft.

So why is this situation a head-scratcher? Ellenson’s mother quoted a report from ESPN.com on Twitter, adding the words “smoke and mirrors” to the post. And earlier this week the Paint Touches website did some looking into the situation before it had been learned that Wally would be leaving the program.

With the late additions of USC grad transfer Katin Reinhardt and reclassified freshman guard Markus Howard (he was in the class of 2017 before moving to 2016), Marquette had used all 13 of its scholarships for the 2016-17 campaign. With the additions and departures, Marquette has just two players taller than 6-foot-7 on the (at this time) roster for next season: Luke Fischer and Matt Heldt.

Ellenson’s departure opens up a scholarship for Marquette to use, in all likelihood on a player who can add depth in the post. The Journal-Sentinel reported that Ellenson can remain on scholarship should he decide to stay at Marquette, with the four-time All-American in the high jump receiving that grant-in-aid for track as opposed to basketball.

However, it should be noted that as an “equivalency” sport, men’s track and field gets a total of 12.6 scholarships that can be handed out at the coach’s discretion (full or partial scholarships). Would Ellenson receive a full scholarship despite the fact that he’d be competing in just one event? For that reason, along with the questions as to how this situation came to be, this is something worth monitoring moving forward.

No. 5 Xavier advances to Big East semis with a 90-72 win

Actor Bill Murray, right, makes an X with his arms while watching the big screen during a timeout of an NCAA college basketball game between Xavier and Marquette during the Big East men's tournament, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in New York. Murray's son, Luke Murray, is an assistant coach for Xavier. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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NEW YORK (AP) Trevon Bluiett matched his career high with 24 points and No. 5 Xavier dominated from start to finish in a 90-72 victory over Marquette on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

The Musketeers took advantage of foul trouble by Marquette star center Henry Ellenson to have a big advantage in points in the paint early and finished with a 42-32 difference.

Xavier (27-4) advanced to Friday’s semifinals to face the winner of third-seeded Seton Hall and sixth-seeded Creighton.

It will be the Musketeers second straight trip to the semifinals. They lost to Villanova in last season’s championship game.

JaJuan Johnson had 19 points to lead the Golden Eagles (20-13), who have reached the semifinals twice (2008, 2010) but they have never made it to the championship game. They beat St. John’s 101-93 in the opening round.

This was the third time Xavier beat Marquette this season with the first two both decided by eight points.

Xavier opened on an 11-2 run with Ellenson, the conference’s freshman of the year and its leading rebounder, picking up his second foul just 3 minutes into the game. He was taken out of the game but when Xavier started having its way inside and took a 15-4 lead, he was back with 14:20 left in the half. The Golden Eagles went to a 2-3 zone to try and keep him from picking up another foul but it didn’t work.

Ellenson, who finished with 14 points and three rebounds, scored eight straight points for Marquette as the Golden Eagles drew within 26-21. With 2:44 left in the half Ellenson and Bluiett got tangled up near midcourt and both went down to the court. An official review found that Ellenson tripped Bluiett and he was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul – his third.

Bluiett’s free throw and J.P. Macura’s 3 on the ensuing possession were part of a 13-0 run that gave the Musketeers a 43-25 lead and Macura hit a long 3 with 4 seconds left to give Xavier a 46-30 lead.

Xavier shot 59.4 percent (19 of 32) in the half while the Golden Eagles were 11 of 32 (34.4 percent).

The Musketeers opened the second half on a 10-3 run and the rout was on with Xavier leading by as many as 28 points. The closest Marquette got was 17 points.

TIP-INS:

Marquette: The Golden Eagles entered the game first in the conference in steals (7.8) and they are second in assists (16.3). … The 101 points against St. John’s in the opening round was the first time the Golden Eagles broke the century against a Big East opponent. They joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season.

Xavier: The Musketeers entered the game first in the conference in assists (16.4) and they are second in steals (7.2). … Myles Davis leads the Big East in free throw shooting percentage (85.9). … Seven players have led the Musketeers in scoring in at least two games this season. … Chris Mack was named national coach of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

UP NEXT:

Marquette: good enough for an NIT bid.

Xavier: faces the winner of Creighton-Seton Hall in the semifinals on Friday.

Marquette fan sends Providence money for missed free throw

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It goes without saying that sports can inspire some interesting promises, from players and coaches guaranteeing victory to fans making statements that hinge on the outcome of a particular game or play (see: tattoos celebrating a team’s triumphs before they’ve even won the game in question). For one Marquette fan, the need for Providence’s Kris Dunn to miss a free throw during Wednesday night’s game (which Marquette won in overtime) inspired him to make a promise that he intended to keep.

Jamey Schilling took the approach of yelling that he’d pay Dunn $10 if he missed the free throw. Sure enough Dunn missed the shot, and Schilling made good on his promise. But with players themselves unable to receive such funds due to NCAA rules, Schilling sent the check to the Providence athletic department.

Schilling’s gesture did not go unnoticed by Marquette either, as the school sent him a gift card to use in the Marquette Spirit Shop.

H/T For The Win

Marquette upsets No. 20 Providence in double overtime to earn season sweep

Marquette's Duane Wilson grabs a loose ball in front of Providence's Ryan Fazekas (35) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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Marquette earned an important Big East season sweep for its postseason aspirations as they held on in double overtime to upset No. 20 Providence 96-91 on Wednesday night.

The Golden Eagles (16-9, 5-7) overcame rallies from the Friars in both regulation and the first overtime to finally put away the home victory. Freshmen led the way for Marquette as Henry Ellenson had 26 points and 16 rebounds while Haanif Cheatham added 21 points.

Providence was led by Ben Bentil, as he poured in 41 points by hitting numerous tough looks to keep the Friars in the game. Player of the Year candidate Kris Dunn finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Providence but he committed a key turnover on an errant pass when the game was tied on the final possession in regulation. Dunn fouled out in the first overtime and Bentil did his best to knock in tough 3-pointers (6-for-13) to keep Providence in the game.

Marquette did just about everything they could to give this game away but still came away with a critical win. The Golden Eagles blew a nine-point lead in the second half and showed their youthful inexperience by fouling Bentil on a key 3-point attempt in extra time. With a chance to make it a two-possession game at the end of the first overtime, Cheatham corralled an offensive rebound — on a bad shot attempt in the first place — and put up a wild putback attempt when the Golden Eagles could have run clock and forced Providence to foul.

Despite those mistakes, the Golden Eagles have to be pleased to pick up a season sweep over the Friars as they beat a good team twice in very tight games. Playing without center Luke Fischer in overtime, Marquette still managed to pick up the victory. Coming off of consecutive losses, Marquette needed this win badly as they now get Creighton twice with a road game at DePaul sandwiched in between.

As for Providence (18-7, 6-6), Bentil showed that he’s recovering just fine from that ankle injury but this team still needs more help outside of the dynamic duo of Dunn and Bentil. It was encouraging that Providence rallied in the first overtime without Dunn in the game to force more time, but Bentil ran out of gas in the second overtime and didn’t have much help to keep the Friars in the game. The Friars have now dropped four of their last five games, including a three-game losing streak that includes road losses at DePaul and Marquette. Providence is back to .500 in the Big East and needs a solid showing its next three games against solid competition.

No. 8 Providence struggles in home loss to Marquette

Providence’s Kris Dunn reacts in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Massachusetts, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
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Haanif Cheatham went for 16 points and Duane Wilson, who finished with 11, scored a tough, driving layup with 30 seconds left for what would prove to be the game-winning basket as Marquette went into the Dunkin Donuts Center and upset No. 8 Providence, 65-64.

Henry Ellenson added 13 points, 10 boards, four blocks and three steals for the Golden Eagles, who were in desperate need of this win. They were coming off of a pair of truly disappointing performances to open Big East play, losing to Seton Hall at home by 20 and falling at Georgetown by ten points on Saturday.

So credit to Steve Wojciechowski and his team.

This is the kind of win that is going to be relevant when Selection Sunday comes around.

But the story of this game isn’t Marquette.

It’s Providence.

Because the Friars did not play anything like the Providence team that we have become accustomed to seeing over the course of the season. They came out flat — turnovers and 0-for-4 shooting on their first eight possessions — and they shot the ball poorly — Rodney Bullock, Ben Bentil, Ryan Fazekas and Drew Edwards were a combined 0-for-10 from three — but this performance had the feel of a team that had bought into their hype.

This is unequivocally the best team that Ed Cooley has ever had at Providence. They’ve climbed into the top ten of just about every ranking you’ll find this side of KenPom (who has them 33rd; Ken wins again) and, after their come-from-behind win at Butler on Thursday, there has been talk about the Friars being the best team in the Big East. I went as far as to say that I think this is a group that can play their way into the Final Four — they have the same roster makeup as the two UConn teams that won national titles in the last five years — and I still believe that to be the case.

But for teams that are not used to being the hunted, to being the elite win that every potential bubble team is looking to add to their résumé, it can be tough to come out focused every night, particularly when you’re hosting a team that had lost their first two league games by an average of 15 points.

Providence came out sluggish, put a run on Marquette that seemed to seal the win — it was 58-50 late in the second half — but closed the game with the same ugly offensive possessions and sloppy turnovers that they started it with.

Put it this way: Marquette shot 2-for-11 from three, turned the ball over 19 times and grabbed just two offensive rebounds and they’ll leave Providence with a win in a game they trailed by eight with six minutes left.

I don’t think Friar fans should be worried just yet, but it will be interesting to see what happens when they play Creighton on the road next week. My guess? The Bluejays are going to rue the timing of that game.