No. 24 Marquette faces big challenge in Indiana

For the first time in coach Steve Wojciechowski's tenure, the Marquette Golden Eagles are a Top 25 team.

They'll carry that ranking to Bloomington, Ind., on Wednesday night where they'll face off against the Indiana Hoosiers in a Gavitt Tip-Off Games contest at Assembly Hall.

The Golden Eagles haven't been ranked since Dec. 1, 2013 but returned to the polls at No. 24 after opening the season with home victories over Maryland-Baltimore County and Bethune-Cookman.

"I think it's well-deserved but at the same time we are still hungry for more," junior guard Markus Howard said. "We don't want to be satisfied with anything and we don't want to let that affect us in any way. We're going to continue to work."

Howard has been a major factor in the Golden Eagles' start. He averaged 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the first two games -- including 37 against Bethune-Cookman, marking the most by a Marquette player in a home game in 12 years -- to earn Big East Player of the Week Honors.

He hit seven 3-pointers in that contest and shot 10-of-16 overall after knocking down 5 of 16 shots in the Golden Eagles' season opener, including only 2 of 12 attempts from distance.

"Markus is an explosive offensive player," Wojciechowski said. "I was never concerned about his shooting."

Wojciechowski, a former standout guard and assistant coach at Duke, has taken a page out of Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell's playbook this season, choosing to eschew the normal "starter" and "reserve" designations, at least until he figures out how to best utilize a deep and talented roster.

He utilized nine players for nine minutes or more in the season opener and 11 saw at least that much action against Bethune-Cookman with eight players getting at least 18 minutes.

"The strength of our team is our team," Wojciechowski said. "We have a group of guys who on any given night can be the spark plug or catalyst for our team playing at a higher level."

Indiana (2-0) opened its season with dominant victories over Chicago State and Montana State last week with highly touted freshman forward Jerome Hunter watching from the sidelines with a leg injury that coach Archie Miller said will leave him out of action for an undetermined but "significant" amount of time.

"It's sort of a leg injury, but it's not a typical leg injury that is an injury caused by practicing or something," Miller said. "It's more of an underlying effect, that's causing him some pain. When we get all the answers, he'll be evaluated and decided on. As of right now, though, Jerome will be out for a to-be-determined amount of time."

While Hunter was expected to play a significant role this season, the Hoosiers have performed well in his absence. Senior forward Juwan Morgan is averaging 11.5 points on 66.7 percent shooting through the first two games and had 14 to go along with 11 rebounds in Indiana's 80-35 rout of Montana State.

Freshman guard Romeo Langford -- who, like Morgan, was a preseason All-Big Ten selection -- is averaging 15.5 points on 60 percent shooting along with 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

Langford anchors an Indiana team heavy on talent but short on experience. That group is about to get tested in a big way with seven of the Hoosiers' next nine games coming against teams among the top 65 in KenPom ratings.

"We're going to have to get prepared," Miller said. "When you look at the remaining month of November, early December with two conference games on the horizon, and the ACC-Big Ten Challenge road game at the end of the month, you're going to have to test yourself going into those games to know where you're really at, and what you have to improve on."

The Golden Eagles are visiting Assembly Hall for the first time since 1985.

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