Marquette dominated Buffalo in a Friday night tilt 103-85 and earned a spot in the top 20 in the AP poll coming in at number 18. The Bulls hopped out to a 19-10 lead after a few buckets from star senior C.J. Massinburg. Joey Hauser then hit three deep threes giving the Golden Eagles a 39-38 advantage at the break. The second half was the Markus Howard show, Howard dropped 40 and became the first Golden Eagle ever to do so in a half. The Golden Eagles finish off non-conference play with Southern on December 28th and then start conference play with a road trip to New York to take on St. Johns.
Southern, a typical contender in the SWAC, is down this year. The Golden Eagles should have no problem making quick business out of the Jaguars even after a solid performance where they dropped 92 on a solid South Dakota State team in a 9 point loss. St. Johns, who is 12-0, will be a true road test for Marquette. It will be just the second true road game for the team this season and they will have to deal with a strong backcourt led by Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron. Ponds has been a consistent problem for the Golden Eagles throughout this career notching a career high 44 points last year against Marquette. Ponds now has a capable sidekick in Mustapha Heron who is an Auburn transfer averaging just over 15 points in his first 12 games this season. Heron formerly started for Bruce Pearl and a Auburn squad that is a top 15 team in the nation this year. One advantage Marquette will have in this game is experience in big games. Marquette has already faced five AP Top 25 opponents this year, compared to 0 for the Red Storm. In fact, their best opponent VCU ranks 71st in RPI and 9 of their 12 opening games were against sub-190th RPI rated teams. Even after a few quality wins, the Golden Eagles need to prove that they can win a true road game. In their only true road showing they were dominated 96-73 by Indiana. While St. Johns has nowhere near the homecourt advantage of Indiana in Assembly Hall, Marquette will have to prove they can stay calm in a hostile environment.
St. John’s Prediction:
I think Marquette will struggle in this one and lose a close game. Unfortunately, if St. Johns did not pick up Heron it would be a much different game for Marquette. They could have had Chartouny stick on Ponds with plenty of help. Now with Ponds and Heron Marquette will be forced to have Howard guard one of the two stars. I expect Howard’s defense to get exposed and another huge performance like last year to come from Ponds. He is truly the most underrated player in college basketball to me and is nothing short of a walking bucket. No matter the result it should be a high scoring, exciting game, with plenty of great offensive possessions.
Score: St. Johns 85 Marquette 82