Marquette will look to keep its perfect home record in tact tonight when it takes on Maryland-Baltimore County in a non-conference affair tonight at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Golden Eagles return to the hardwood on the mainland after taking home fifth-place honors in last week’s Maui Invitational. After losing a heart-breaker to Butler, Buzz Williams’ group rebounded with a convincing win over Mississippi State and a gritty win over Southern Cal on Wednesday. With five days of rest, Marquette should come out firing against UMBC, which has struggled to a 1-3 start on the early season.
The underlying story in tonight’s contest is the return of 6-foot-10 center Brett Roseboro, who signed with Marquette as a 2009 recruit but decided to transfer just weeks into his arrival in Milwaukee. The unknown recruit essentially was in over his head and the Marquette coaching staff made a blunder in recruiting Roseboro, and both made the right decision in parting ways.
Roseboro joined St. Bonaventure for two seasons before transferring to UMBC last year, where he sat out per NCAA transfer regulations. He has played well thus far, averaging 6.5 points and 4.0 rebounds and surely will be playing with a chip on his shoulder against his former team. Only Junior Cadougan and Chris Otule were on the roster when Roseboro was, so the “rivalry” really doesn’t go both ways here, as fun of a story line as it would be.
Instead, Marquette will have its focus on 6-foot-6 wing Chase Plummer, America East’s leading returning scorer from a year ago. He has struggled from the field in his junior year, but he has range and can get to the free throw line. He’s the Retrievers’ best player and will be another good test for Jamil Wilson.
Leading the way for UMBC’s impressive offense has been senior guard Ryan Cook. The 6-foot-2 shooter has scored in double-digits each game, including a 28-point effort against Princeton. What’s most impressive, however, is his commitment to the boards. After averaging 4.3 rebounds per game last year, Cook has grabbed 34 in four games (8.5). With Vander Blue on the mend, Jake Thomas and Jamal Ferguson will get the first look against Cook.
The Retrievers’ other senior guard, Brian Neller, is off to a slow start but another threat from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-4 guard is a stout defender and another veteran wing presence. Trent Lockett is likely to garner this matchup.
Junior Cadougan and Derrick Wilson have played well defensively through five games and will be licking their chops when they face freshman point guard Aaron Morgan. The 5-foot-11 Morgan has started all four games, averaging 4.3 assists but has committed a whopping 16 turnovers. He has range, but doesn’t offer much defensively and will be flustered against Marquette.
Sophomore point guard Joey Getz is first off the bench, while forwards Adrian Satchell and Malik Gardner fill out the rotation.
Where the Retrievers are good
— It isn’t efficient, but UMBC’s up-tempo offense (21st fastest) puts points on the board. The Retrievers are averaging 74.2 points per game and are shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc (31st best). Plummer, Cook and Neller all are legitimate scorers and the small lineups allow UMBC to get out and run. Transition defense will be important in slowing them down.
— Morgan is an intriguing prospect at the point. He was a highly sought-after mid-major recruit on the east coast, and has played well in the starting lineup just a year out of high school. He was able to unseat Jarrel Lane as the starter, has handed the ball out well and even rebounded (3.2) above-average. He should have a tough time against the Cadougan-D. Wilson combo, but he’s one to watch as a player who could quietly put up numbers.
Where the Retrievers can be beat
— Simply put, this is one of the worst defensive teams in the country. The Retrievers have allowed more than 75 points per game, opponents are shooting better than 54 percent effectively from the field and UMBC’s steals and takeaways are low for the number of possessions they give. No Vander Blue hurts, but Marquette could hit the century mark against this defense.
— For as many points as the Retrievers score, they also turn it over at a high rate. At 17.8 turnovers per game, this free-wheeling offense will allow for plenty of takeaways on Marquette’s end. Points will come because of UMBC’s style, but it’s ugly…and the Golden Eagles will be there to take advantage.
Three keys to the game
1. Paint Touches
Not to be self-serving, but UMBC has one of the shortest rotations in college basketball, meaning getting the ball to the paint should be easy and effective. Chris Otule has been great inside, and Davante Gardner should have a field day. What will be interesting is to see how Marquette wings get to the paint without Blue in the lineup.
2. Beat them at their own game
Marquette’s fast-break game against Mississippi State was a sight to behold, and it should happen against against a Retrievers’ team that wants to run but can’t really defend the same on the other end. Junior Cadougan could post serious assist numbers, while Trent Lockett is one to watch off missed baskets.
3. Assists, assists, assists
Marquette was unusually weak on assisted baskets in Maui, handing out assists on just 37-of-86 baskets (43 percent). Granted, competition was better on the island, but the Golden Eagles should still be somewhere in the 55-60 percent range in this category, and tonight is a great time to get back on track.