SE Louisiana Scouting Report: Experienced Lions lack offensive punch

Marquette moved to 1-0 Sunday afternoon with an easy win over Colgate, and should be on their way to a 2-0 mark before it flies west for the Maui Invitational after a matchup tonight with Southeastern Louisiana.

The Golden Eagles saw all 11 of their scholarship players score Sunday in their 83-64 win over Colgate, led by 15 points from Jamil Wilson and 14 more from Davante Gardner. Trent Lockett filled the stat sheet in his Marquette debut, going for 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals.

Trent Lockett gets his first test tonight against Brandon Fortenberry. (Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

The Lions enter the BMO Harris Bradley Center two days after a 87-47 season opener loss at Wisconsin. SE Louisiana’s pace has slowed each of the past three seasons under head coach Jim Yarbrough, culminating last year in the 274th “fastest” pace in the country. That, combined with Wisconsin’s pace, resulted in a 60-possession game Sunday.

Sunday’s box score wouldn’t show it, but SE Louisiana is led by shooting guard Brandon Fortenberry. The 6-foot-3 Fortenberry suffered a foot injury that ended his senior season, and he was granted a fifth year of eligibility. He scored only 2 points against Wisconsin, but his combination of outside shooting, court vision and defense make him a potential player of the year in the Southland conference. Lockett likely will draw the matchup, which is good news based on the Arizona State transfer’s debut.

6-foot-6 senior forward Roosevelt Johnson is one of 10 returning Lions, and he’s set to take on a larger role in the front court this year. He’s one of the top rebounders in the country, averaging 7.9 a year ago with the 22nd best defensive rebounding percentage in the country. He’s efficient on offense (no outside range) and has good size, making him a tough matchup for Jamil Wilson.

Jeremy Campbell is the third upperclassman in the Lions’ starting lineup. He saw a giant leap in minutes from his freshman to sophomore year, and the 6-foot-4 sophomore didn’t disappoint. He averaged 7.7 points and 3.0 rebounds, yet struggled mightily from both the field (38.8 percent) and free throw line (58.2 percent). He has good size, but isn’t much of a threat from beyond the arc.

A newcomer who made an impact Sunday was Dre Evans, a junior college transfer who spent his freshman season at Providence. The 5-foot-9 point guard scored 13 points against Wisconsin and, while he didn’t have any assists (SE Louisiana had just 4 as a team), Evans averaged 3.8 per game at Blinn College a year ago.

Power forward Jan Petrovcic rounds out the Lions’ starting five. The senior is in only his second season with SE Louisiana, but he averaged 2.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 17.0 minutes per game last year. He’s not going to be much of an offensive threat, but should provide a nice test inside for Chris Otule.

The three main reserves for the Lions are 6-foot-2 junior college transfer Jeffery Ricard, 6-foot-6 wing Onochie Ochie (outstanding name) and senior shooting guard Todd Nelson.

Where the Lions are good

There’s something to be said about a team that returns 10 core players and a potential player of the year in Fortenberry. While experience was at a premium for Colgate, the Lions have chemistry and are battle-tested, albeit at a mid-major level. Last year they lost to Arkansas by seven and Texas Tech by eight. This isn’t an overly talented group, but they aren’t going to shy away from competition either.

Last year opponents shot just 46 percent against the Lions, the 53rd lowest mark in the country. Even better, teams made only 29.8 percent of 3’s (14th), making this an impressive defensive unit. Their slow pace plays into this as well, and while Marquette will have easy buckets throughout the game, the Golden Eagles may not put up the 84 points they had Sunday.

Vander Blue struggled Sunday, but he’ll have a chance for redemption tonight against the Lions. (Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

Where the Lions can be beat

Granted they played most of the year without Fortenberry, but the Lions were the third least efficient offense in the country last year. They averaged 59.9 points per game, had a turnover rate of 23.6 (324th) and struggled mightily from the free throw line. Fortenberry is back, Evans is an incoming starter and rotation players are a year older, but there’s real concerns about how good the offense is. Playing against Wisconsin is a bad barometer, but they did manage just 47 points in their opener.

Colgate’s strength was its 3-point shooting, but the same can’t be said for the Lions. They have just one returning player (Fortenberry) who made double-digit 3-pointers. Evans will help from beyond the arc, but they made just 4.1 3’s per game last year, the 12th lowest mark in the country.

Three keys to the game

1. Push the pace

The Lions will turn the ball over tonight, and Marquette must set the pace of the game with easy baskets in transition. SE Louisiana can defend, but it won’t be able to against an up-tempo Marquette team that had its way turning Colgate turnovers into baskets on Sunday.

2. Lockett’s first big test

SE Louisiana doesn’t have a good chance at winning tonight’s game, but Fortenberry is a legitimate threat the same Murphy Burnatowski was on Sunday. Relatively speaking, Marquette didn’t stop Colgate’s leading scorer (24 points, 12 rebounds) the way it could have. Lockett will get first dibs at Fortenberry, who will use a great deal of Lion possessions, but can’t go off the same Burnatowski did. A win is likely, but Marquette, more specifically Lockett, can prove a lot by limiting Fortenberry.

3. An improved Steve Taylor

It’s not a vital key to the game (there aren’t many), but Steve Taylor Jr. could go a long way by showing more than he did Sunday. He was the only real negative against Colgate, committing four fouls in 13 minutes to go with 4 points and a rebound. It was only one game, but Taylor looked a bit rattled in his first collegiate game. Any outside shooting would be an added bonus.

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