Koby’s frustration, Cain’s 6th sense and other MU notes

Coming into the season, expectations for Koby McEwen were higher than they probably should have been (and I said as much back in October), but a fantastic showing against Purdue proved right away what kind of lift the Utah State transfer could provide.

He willed Marquette’s run in the second half, and sealed it with some clutch free throws. No one expected that every game, of course, but it was a taste of his tremendous potential when he’s dialed in.

Through the first 3 games of the season, Koby led the team in ORtg (126.1), eFG% (69.0%) while averaging 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. The 3pt% was unsustainable at 71.4%, but as he was only shooting 33.3% on 2s, there was room for progress there to offset more missed 3s.

And yet, in the last 5 games, we’ve seen a completely different player. His ORtg of 73.7 is the worst on the team of the players getting at least 40% of minutes and his shooting stroke has completely abandoned him. He’s at 17.4% from 3 (4-23) and even more shockingly, 21.4% from 2 (3-14). That’s unplayable bad.

Add in a 26.6% TO rate, and it’s clear he’s having trouble getting going offensively, and as referenced a few times on the broadcast, completely in his own head right now.

Having that context in mind, and knowing he couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half, it is somewhat understandable why Koby would react like this to a turnover.

When I’m stressed, I tend to be much more curt (and loud) with my kids for stuff I normally wouldn’t bat an eye to. It’s human nature. Not that it’s right, but it is completely normal.

But that’s when you have to try and get yourself in the proper headspace to put things in perspective. Bailey didn’t mess up the pass and even if he did, you are up 21, it does not merit an outward display like that.

Fast forward a few seconds and you get this.

That’s just unacceptable. Again, I completely get how and why it happens, but this set a real negative tone for the rest of the half. It probably made him upset that Bailey was grabbing the rebound, but that’s what they are taught to do. And it was not Bailey’s fault that the Jacksonville defender was able to poke it out.

Wojo had seen enough and pulled Koby at that point until the next media timeout to be able to clear his head and get his emotions under control.

But even when he came back in, the first offensive possession he forced a drive into a tough contested shot, missed, and committed a dumb foul attacking the offensive glass. And it was back to bench for the next 9 game minutes.

These things happen, it’s not a huge deal and me writing a post about it is probably the last thing he needs. But it’s beyond clear that Marquette will need Koby as a positive contributor offensively this season if it wants to make the tournament. If the shot doesn’t fall, it can’t lead to tantrums against his own players.

Mistakes happen, you learn from them and you get better.

Cain’s 6th Sense

Jamal Cain had one of the best games of his career last night, notching 8 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes, never forcing it and providing good help defensively.

I pointed it out in real time, but his knack for getting rebounds is extraordinary. It’s not just that he’s long and athletic, which obviously helps, but he’s constantly in great position on both ends of the glass.

I harped on this particular ability all summer, as a reason I thought he could do well this year.

And it seems like Wojo agrees as well.

Cain is finally in a position where he can thrive, not having to defend the smaller, quicker players that killed him on the perimeter, not having to create for himself, and getting to feast on the boards. He has yet to find his shooting stroke (he’s a career 39% 3pt shooter and is only 2-10 this season, but if and when he does, he can go from a good bench guy in a limited role to a pivotal rotational piece.

This was only the 3rd time a Marquette player grabbed 12 or more boards in the past 3 seasons, with Sam Hauser accomplishing the feat twice last season. With Jayce and Jamal on the floor, rebounding can be a tremendous weapon for this team.

Plus/Minus

Single game and small samples of individual plus/minus stats can be incredibly misleading. I always lead with that caveat because it’s very important not to get carried away by a stat that one player can’t really control on his own.

With that said, we now have enough data where we can see some trends start to emerge.

For starters, Theo has not been himself the lat 3 games, not posting one positive plus/minus in that timespan. He did late in the 2nd half against Jacksonville, but the foul issues are really limiting his impact.

On the other hand, despite some better performances recently from Ed Morrow, he still has yet to crack positive territory this season. The 40% TO rate isn’t helping his cause, but it’s defensively where he really has struggled to contain bigger players this year.

Symir Torrence benefits from mostly playing cupcakes and small minutes, but with Markus out yesterday, he looked decent on offense with the starters on the floor. It’s defensively, where he gets lost and commits too many silly fouls, where his learning curve has been the steepest.

Sacar Shining

Oh what a difference a week makes. 10 days ago I was bemoaning Sacar Anim’s poor start to the season.

But his performance is currently a net negative. If it continues to be that after Orlando this week, I think the hook might need to come a bit quicker each game.

Now I’m here to sing his praises.

In the 4 games since that was written, Sacar is a team high +42, with an ORtg of 107.9 and a team high 77% of minutes played. He won’t continue to shoot 60% from 3, but he’s shot a team high 18 times at the rim, per Bart Torvik, and is hitting at a decent 61% clip on these.

With Koby struggling, Sacar has really taken the second scorer mantle, and done it well. If and when Koby can right the ship, there should be a bit more space for Markus to operate, and in turn, the rest of the offense can flow (or at least flow better).

Rolling Brendan

Bailey went off against Maryland, helping to keep what was a already a blowout from getting to embarrassment territory. He was super confident and aggressive, but was a bit lucky, hitting on 5/8 contested spot ups.

I don’t expect that to continue. However, the P&R with him at the top of the arc, slipping the screen and launching ASAP was a staple of Sam Hauser’s success, and something I’d love to see Marquette continue to utilize with him.

Bailey is currently scoring 1.429 PPP in 7 roll possessions, going 1/2 against Jacksonville. He did airball badly on his first attempt, but he shook it off later in the half and drained the next one.

I think running this 2 or 3 times a game can do wonders for Bailey’s confidence and accuracy, and making teams a bit more hesitant to hard hedge Markus at the top of the arc.

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