Marquette has shown the ability to score points in bunches in its first three games. The Golden Eagles hope their defensive play continues to catch up as they host Texas Southern on Tuesday as part of the Chicago Invitational.
The 15th-ranked Golden Eagles (3-0) have averaged 100.3 points, making a seamless transition to first-year coach Buzz Williams’ fast-paced motion offense while scoring at least 95 points in each win.
Senior guard Wesley Matthews - a career 11.7 points-per-game scorer - has been the biggest beneficiary of the new system, averaging a team-high 26.0 points while shooting 53.7 percent from the field and 93.8 percent from the foul line (30-of-32).
Matthews had 25 points and seven rebounds as Marquette pulled away for a 100-80 victory over crosstown rival Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday. He had plenty of help as Lazar Hayward scored 25, Jerel McNeal added 22 and Dominic James 16 to go with eight assists.
“We’re one of the hardest teams in the nation to guard on the break,” said McNeal, who’s scoring 19.7 points per game and added a team-high five steals Saturday. “Once we get a stop defensively, we’re allowing ourselves a great opportunity to score on the other end very quickly.”
Hayward is averaging 21.7 points on 58.5 percent shooting and pulling down a team-best 10.3 rebounds per game.
With the faster offense, the Golden Eagles are still finding their bearings defensively and have given up 77.0 points per game - well above last season’s average of 64.8. Marquette, though, limited the Panthers to 38 percent shooting, giving Williams what he was looking for on the defensive end.
“First half, last seven minutes they scored seven points. With the exception of the last seven possessions, when we fouled seven straight times, from a defensive standpoint, that’s the best we’ve played,” Williams said. “I’m asking them to play like junkyard dogs on defense.
“And then on offense, I’m asking them to run really, really fast once we secure the defensive rebound.”
Marquette scored 106 points against Chicago State on Nov. 17, and will be trying to reach the 100 mark in three straight games for the first time in the program’s 92-year history.
Texas Southern (0-3) has yet to play a home game but has been competitive in two contests, losing by single digits at Texas-El Paso and Northern Iowa around a blowout defeat at Cincinnati.
The Tigers played well offensively in a 74-67 defeat to Northern Iowa on Sunday, shooting a season-high 57.8 percent and going 10-of-16 from 3-point range.
Matthew Hiller had 28 points for Texas Southern, going 7-of-8 from beyond the arc and 9-of-10 overall. Reserve Sollie Norwood hit three 3-pointers and added 10 points, but the Tigers were outscored 19-5 at the foul line, where they missed nine of 14 attempts.
The Tigers have dropped their last 10 games against ranked opponents since the start of the 1997-98 season, losing by an average of 36.3 points. One of those defeats was a 76-40 loss to Marquette in 2001, the most recent meeting between the teams.
The Golden Eagles will play Dayton and Northern Iowa this weekend to complete their portion of the Chicago Invitational, while Texas Southern faces Mercer and either Chicago State or Bethune-Cookman.