How 5-11 duo Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey made Marquette a bundle of fun
Marquette's backcourt leads an all-out 3-point assault
There are only three pairs of teammates in college basketball who are averaging more than 20 points per game this season. Junior guards Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks of Marshall are one pair; senior guards Matt Scott and Kahlil Dukes of Niagara are another.
But the sub-6-foot pair we are going to concentrate on here -- because this high-scoring tandem could affect how many teams the Big East get into the NCAA tournament -- is sophomore guard Markus Howard (21.5 points a game) and senior guard Andrew Rowsey (20.8) of Marquette.
This Marquette team is currently hovering inside of the NCAA Tournament bubble, according to CBS Sports' Jerry Palm, one of seven Big East teams currently projected to be dancing in March. Marquette has a 13-6 record, no bad losses, a schedule that's been one of the most challenging in the country and nice resume wins over potential tournament teams Seton Hall and Providence. Wednesday night (6:30 p.m. ET, FS1), the Golden Eagles take on No. 8 Xavier in a game that could push them into the safe zone with the committee.
They're doing it with one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball, which has become something of the signature of Steve Wojciechowski teams in his fourth season at the helm. Marquette ranks ninth in college basketball in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, spreading the floor and jacking up threes at a rate that would make the Golden State Warriors proud. Nearly half of Marquette shots (47.2 percent) are 3-point attempts; 42 percent of their points come off of 3-pointers, which ranks 11th in college basketball. They're not shooting ill-advised shots, either; as a team they shoot 40.6 percent from 3, good for 18th in the country.
Howard is shooting "merely" 38.9 percent from deep -- Rousey shoots 42.3 percent -- but he is pretty clearly this team's No. 1 option. Howard led the nation in 3-point shooting his freshman year (54.7 percent) and scored a just-plain-silly 52 points in the Providence win earlier this month, the highest scoring total in college basketball this season. He also has yet to miss a free throw in 57 attempts.
It's remarkable, and reminiscent of those 3-point-jacking Duke teams that Wojciechowski played for and coached. And given where this pair of teammates came from, you shouldn't be particularly surprised.
"I was so adamant about always wanting to be able to shoot and make shots," Howard, who grew up outside of Phoenix, told CBS Sports recently. "I'd be at it for hours every day. My mom would have to bring my food out to me at the backyard hoop. She wouldn't let me outside until I'd do my homework. She'd tell me to go take out the garbage, and I'd go out there and shoot while I was taking out the garbage. She'd have to tell me, 'If I hear you shooting, you're in trouble.' "
Howard's first memory is at age 3, sitting in diapers and watching his two older brothers play ball in the backyard. By the time he was 10, his dad got him a light to shine on the hoop so he could shoot at night. He'd shoot late into the night; the next morning, neighbors would often complain to his parents. His brother Desmond has always been his trainer and his shooting coach and gave him a bit of wisdom that works pretty well on this shoot-your-shot Marquette team.
"The best advice he's given me is that if I miss a shot, (I) better shoot the next one," Howard said. "He doesn't care if I miss."
As for Rowsey? He was a natural shooter from the time he could grab a basketball. By middle school, he and his dad would go to the gym every night in their Virginia hometown, sometimes to the high school gym, other times to the gym at the two universities in town: VMI and Washington & Lee. They'd do ball-handling drills, get some conditioning in, and then start to shoot.
"He'd never let me come into the gym and just start jacking up 3s," Rowsey said. "He built my shot off fundamentals. That's not a good habit to come in and jack up threes. You want to start at the basket, get a feel for ball, for the basket. You want to get a feel for your shot that day."
He remembers watching high school games of a future NBA player who grew up in a nearby Virginia town: J.J. Redick. Redick was his shooting model. He played two years at UNC-Asheville before deciding to transfer. The day after he made the decision to transfer, Marquette jumped on Rowsey hard; Wojo and his entire coaching staff flew to Asheville and took Rowsey and his father out to dinner.
Shortly after, Rowsey called the Marquette coach to tell him he was committing to Marquette. Wojo was at dinner with a 6-8 sharpshooter named Sam Hauser, who also had committed. Hauser is this team's most accurate shot -- he's made 49.6 percent of his 3s this season as a sophomore averaging 15.1 points a game. He's as solid a third option as Wojo could ask for, efficiently playing off his two 5-11 star guards.
"We knew we'd have shooters, of course, but we never thought it would come to this," Rowsey said. "It's really fun just to know that on offense, when you're out there, anybody can have 30 on any given night. It's fun to play with guys who space the floor for you and can play really smart. We play free-flowing basketball, always keep the ball moving, try to find the open man, find the mismatch."
You won't be surprised to hear the one NBA team Marquette watches the most tape of: the Warriors. And starting with this high-scoring tandem and infused in the culture of the whole team, it's created one of the most dynamic offensive teams in all of college basketball.
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