By Brendan Crowley
The opening game of the always captivating Maui Invitational didn’t disappoint, this fast paced matchup between Marquette and VCU had everyone on the edge of their seats from tip-off to the final buzzer. Entering the game it was assumed that the up-tempo play of the Rams would make this a high scoring game, however no one could have expected a 94-83 marathon.
The Eagles struggled to shoot from outside in the first half but point guard Andrew Rowsey’s 15 points kept them in the lead, 45-44, entering the break. Their quick passing and ability to be patient on offense was what gave them that edge and it reflected on the scoreboard despite poor shooting from the perimeter. It was only a matter of time before the Eagles began their three-point barrage at the beginning of the 2nd half.
Guard Andrew Rowsey huddles the Golden Eagles together following a 1st half lay-in from Howard.
Sophomore guard Markus Howard, the nation’s top 3-point shooter just a season ago, got things clicking for the Eagles in the 2nd and his 3-point shooting was the catalyst that gave Marquette the lead early on. Between Howard’s four 2nd half three-pointers and contributions from Sam Hauser (20 points) not only in the paint but beyond the arc as well, Marquette was able to build an 8 point lead with 15 minutes remaining and never looked back. VCU’s inability to communicate on defense and rotate with the ball led to their demise as second chance looks for Marquette allowed them to take this game over.
The Rams’ ‘havoc’ defense worked well in forcing 17 turnovers, but it left them out of place on defense and led to a number of transition hoops and mismatches in favor of Marquette. Markus Howard’s 18 2nd half points along with great shooting from Hauser and Rowsey led to this huge team win for Marquette. Steve Wojciechowski’s squad advances to play the nation’s #6 team Wichita State for the first semifinal matchup of the Maui Invitational this afternoon. VCU will head to the loser’s bracket and match up with a scrappy Cal squad that was leading Wichita by 18 at one point in their quarterfinal matchup.