Chris Otule is on a historic run over the last month. It’s unsure how historic his run has been, but the 6-foot-10 redshirt center has made a scorching 28 of his last 33 field goal attempts (84.8%) in Marquette’s last eight games.
That run has pushed his field goal percentage on the season to 68.5 percent, which would top the Big East and be second in the country if he qualified. His field goal numbers have been just one part of his resurgence here in his fifth season in a Marquette uniform — his 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 20.4 minutes over the last 10 games have added value to his game — and he has seen his role increase as the Golden Eagles come down the final stretch.
But Otule isn’t known for any one move in the paint, rarely receives the ball on the low block to dribble inside on a defender and, despite his 275-pound frame, doesn’t create a whole lot of space around the basket — traits seen in his fellow frontcourt mate, Davante Gardner.
Otule’s magnificent stretch — one in which he has averaged 7.5 points per game as the fifth option on offense — has not only been a result of his work around the basket, but also his teammates being in position and forcing help on defense to free up Otule for uncontested layups and dunks. Let’s take a closer look.
Here is a shot chart of all 28 of Otule’s makes over the last eight games:
Eleven of his makes have come from the right side, nine more from the middle of the paint and the last eight on the left side. Not all his shots have come through Marquette’s halfcourt offense, though. Otule, who has grabbed an offensive rebound in nine straight games, has converted seven of his 13 offensive rebounds into made baskets. These are all Otule’s work inside, and his hands have been better in the last month than they had been his first four-plus years.
But in halfcourt sets, Otule has received help. And thanks to Synergy, we were able to go deeper with each one of the Otule’s touches and makes. Marquette’s offense runs best after a paint touch, and Otule has been the beneficiary of said offense getting into the paint. Here’s what the offense did on each possession before Otule received the ball for his field goal attempt:
On 27 occasions where Otule ended a possession with a field goal attempt, Marquette had a paint touch before he went to his shot. Almost all of these instances were guards penetrating off the dribble, making Otule’s defender leave him, resulting in an open Otule for an easy layup or dunk. When Marquette got a paint touch, Otule was 24-of-27, scoring 1.81 points per possession.
When Marquette did not get a paint touch before throwing it inside to Otule (six times), Otule was 4-of-6, scoring 1.33 points per possession.
Looking further into Marquette getting a paint touch before Otule gains possession, its passing in the lane has been superb. This year Marquette is assisting on just over 60 percent of its made baskets, the 41st best mark in the country and seventh in the Big East. But in the past eight games, Otule’s made field goals that weren’t offensive rebound putbacks (21) have been assisted baskets 19 times (90.5%). Here’s a breakdown of who has been feeding him:
Trent Lockett has been at his best in a Marquette uniform the last month, and it shows here. He does a fantastic job beating his defender off the dribble and having the IQ not to force anything, instead waiting until a help defender commits before feeding Otule. Cadougan and Blue have done the same, while Juan Anderson (four total assists in this span) had his assists come on entry passes from beyond the 3-point line. Just an interesting tidbit.
None of this analysis should be taken as belittling what Otule has done over the last games. His efficiency has helped fuel Marquette’s offense at crucial times, and playing inside-out (Gardner deserves credit, too) has proven to be much more effective for the Big East’s top-ranked offense.
But when taking into account his red-hot numbers, it’s clear the offense runs smoother when getting paint touches, which has cleared up everything for Otule to post career-best numbers as part of his memorable career.