Three takeaways from tonight’s 79-63 win over UT-Martin:
Juan Anderson finally looks comfortable.
It has been a tough three years for the former top-100 recruit. He started his career by being suspended three games for accepting a free playoff ticket for a Milwaukee Brewers playoff game and missed another game with a shoulder injury. He scored just 16 points in 24 games.
Then, during his sophomore year, he made his first collegiate start against Butler in the Maui Invitational, but only averaged 2.7 points per game.
Then, in the spring of last year, he decided to transfer before getting a cool reception on his future prospects and decided to stay at Marquette. He started 19 games, but managed just 3.2 points per game and shot just 37.8 percent.
Enter this year, when he’s expected to be a senior leader. He answered the bell, at least for one night. Anderson scored a career-high 16 points and added seven rebounds. He still needs to work on his shot, but knocked down a pair of threes and had three steals.
“I thought Juan played like a veteran tonight,” coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “He shows up every day with the same energy no matter what we’re doing.”
He appears to finally be comfortable in Milwaukee.
Rebounding will be a problem.
The narrative is well-known. Marquette doesn’t have an eligible player on its roster taller than Steve Taylor, Jr., who is 6-foot-7.
It showed Friday night. The Skyhawks outrebounded the Golden Eagles, 34-25, including 12-8 on the offensive glass. Anderson and Taylor combined for 12 of those rebounds.
That could be the Achilles heal of this team, even when 6-10 Luke Fischer becomes eligible for the second semester.
Taylor picked up his first foul less than two minutes into the game and his second with 7:03 left in the first half. He has to stay on the floor to at least give teams a second thought about going into the paint.
“Rebounding will be a concern for us,” Anderson said. “We have to emphasize that every game and can’t let teams outrebound us.”
Jajuan Johnson is ready for a breakout
Johnson, like Anderson, came to Marquette as a highly-touted recruit. ESPN ranked him No. 27. His freshman year, however, was marred by inconsistency, as he appeared in 21 games and averaged just 4.3 points.
Friday night could be a coming out party for the Tennessee sophomore. He tallied a career-high 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting and hit a pair of threes. He was also 6-of-8 from the free throw line for a team that was 15-of-23 overall.
“Jajuan is a really good player,” Anderson said. “He just has to keep maturing and come with that same energy every day.”
Wojciechowski agreed, calling Johnson the player of the game.
“He has been really good since I got here,” Wojciechowski said. “We’re asking every kid on this team to learn a role they really have no experience with.”
A good confidence building win for a team that many expect to struggle this year. There are a lot of questions still to be answered, but we’ll get a better look at the mettle of this team on Tuesday at Ohio State.