Putting up massive point totals is nothing new for Marquette’s Markus Howard. Howard, in his career, has had a surplus of 30 plus point games -including a school record 52 points against Providence last season. So, what makes his 45-point performance against the Kansas State Wildcats so special?
First of all, his electric performance came against a pretty damn good team. Entering play Saturday the Wildcats checked in at an undefeated 6-0 and ranked 12th in the country. The team’s physical defense has limited opponents to 60.1 points a game – entering the game at a stifling 56.3 points per game allowed.
So how did Howard come into the territory of surpassing the points allowed mark himself?
This is what makes the performance on Saturday so promising. Unlike his previous offensive explosions, Howard didn’t make it rain from beyond the arc. For Howard, it was a disappointing – for his lofty standards – 4 out of 10 attempts for three. In fact, this season has been a numerical letdown for Howard shooting the three ball. His 2018 mark sitting at .370% compared to previous season marks of .547% and .404%
Despite not carrying the perimeter efficiency of past seasons Howard is now a much more well-rounded player than his first two seasons. Saturday simply exemplified the career trajectory of the Junior guard.
Improved ballhandling skills allowed Howard to blow by tight defensive sets aiming to limit his outside shooting. He then either used his increased ability to finish near the hoop or picked apart Kansas State with his crafty midrange game.
The Wildcats defense – helpless to his aggressive attacks into the lane and resorted heavily to fouling Howard. Howard capitalized and sunk 19 of 21 attempts from the charity stripe.
Even more impressive is his aforementioned advanced midrange game. While the floater in the lane is nothing new to his game, his ability to baffle defenders through a combination of starts, stops, pivots, and off-balance shots left the Kansas State defenders looking utterly bewildered trying to contain his spectacular performance.
Though a high NBA pick is likely not in Howard’s future due to his diminutive size, he knocked down multiple midrange shots typically seen from only the likes of lottery caliber guards – leaving my jaw dropped and the Marquette student section erupting into thunderous applause.
If you weren’t already impressed enough, a little bit of storyline spiced up the performance.
Flashing shades of Michael Jordan’s famous “Flu Game” Howard delivered his most impressive collegiate showing while recovering from food poisoning.
Perhaps in his “flu game,” his uncharacteristic missing of 2 free throws (he only missed 7 a year ago) and average performance from beyond the arc his health was to blame – it seemed as though his legs were especially tired by the end of the second half.
However, under the weather he was, it was no barrier to delivering one of the program’s biggest wins in the Steve Wojciechowski era.
It’s entirely reasonable for expect Howard to put up more gaudy point totals when all facets his electric ability are on full display.
Beyond his uncanny ability to put the ball in the hoop he also is demonstrating a more polished mastery of the game. Despite his small size, Howard is averaging a career-high 4.8 rebound per game. Even more important, he is also having a banner year with 4.8 assists per game. Marquette’s high-powered offense has been, at times, able to feast on opponents collapsing into Howard’s side of the court and a well-placed dish leading to an open dunk or three-point attempt.
With his increasingly well-rounded style of play, as well as improved counterparts, the must-watch Markus Howard has the Golden Eagles performing at a level seemingly sure to garner a lock in the 2019 NCAA tourney. In a down year for the Big East Marquette may even compete for a league title. What is sure is every time number zero steps on the court he has the potential to leave the Golden Eagle fanbase in awe.