Zone defense unkind to MU

It’s a little known fact that Marquette likes to get out and run. Most people view Marquette as a a half-court, methodical team.


Marquette doesn’t like to play in the half-court. Nor does it like to play methodically. And combating a zone takes place in the half-court and forces an offense to play methodical.

When Marquette has to play like that, it struggles.

Look at the Cincinnati game Wednesday. The Bearcats zoned up Marquette and forced the Golden Eagles into 17 turnovers while Marquette forced only seven turnovers. Nor did the Bearcats allow Marquette fast break opportunities – Marquette scored just five fast break points.

“Our offensive efficiency is tied to our defensive efficiency, and we were very poor in that regard,” Buzz Williams said after the 72-61 loss to Cincinnati.

The defensive efficiency wasn’t there as Williams said, but Marquette has trended towards under-performing against zone defenses.

In five contests where Marquette was zoned up for the majority of the game it averaged 71 points per game, 15.4 fastbreak points (11.4 if you exclude the 31 points in the first Cincinnati game), 13.6 turnovers, converted 41.8 percent of its field goals, 31.3 percent of its 3-pointers, and posted an 84:68 assist to turnover ratio (1.23:1).

In those five contests (Norfolk State on Nov. 21, at Syracuse on Jan. 7, Louisville on Jan. 16, Cincinnati on Feb. 11, and at Cincinnati on Feb. 28) Marquette is 3-2. Three of those contests were on the road or at a neutral site.

In its 25 other contests Marquette averaged 76.8 points per game, 15.3 fastbreak points, converted 46.8 percent of its attempted field goals, 35.5 percent of its 3-pointers, and posted a 431:318 assist to turnover ratio (1.4:1).

The biggest difference in Wednesday’s affair, compared to the other games against the zone, was Marquette’s inability to get any kind of consistent fast break opportunities.

Just look at the first Cincinnati game. Marquette relied upon its defense to create offense which led to open court opportunities rather than half-court opportunities against the zone defense.

“It’s the opposite of how we want to play. It slows the game down tremendously,” Jae Crowder said of facing a zone defense.

In order to fare better against zones Crowder said Marquette must start, “attacking it and not letting it attack us. We have a tendency of letting the zone defeat us,” which goes with the team’s basic offensive principles. Marquette wants to get into the lane, creating a paint touch, which allows for easier baskets or the opportunity for a kick-out for an open jumper.

If he were an opposing coach, Crowder said he’d run a zone against Marquette given its “lack of success” against it. But Crowder has “high confidence” that Marquette will figure out how to be consistently successful against zone defenses before the year is through.

“Us wanting to be an elite team, we have to adjust to whatever is thrown at us. We’ve been working on it (playing against the zone) starting yesterday (Thursday),” Crowder said.

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Categories: Analysis


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