Quote Center: Marquette Postgame vs. St. John's
Big East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Marquette Golden Eagles
Marquette - 86, St. John - 54
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: Proud of my team. Obviously, we have a great deal of respect for St. John's. They made it incredibly tough for us in the regular season, so we knew we had our hands full. Our guys really responded. It's a new season. That's how we're approaching it, 0-0. We're proud of the first step in the new season. At midnight tonight, go back to 0-0.
I thought we played a complete performance. These two guys were terrific, as were a number of our guys. Really good win on a big stage.
Q. Markus, you guys have had trouble closing out games the last four games. St. John's cut it to six in the second half, and you kind of keyed that big run to break the game wide open. Did you kind of take the team on your back a little bit?
MARKUS HOWARD: No. My team actually kind of put -- they kind of helped me through things. They really got us off to a great run. This guy over here right next to me really gave us a spark to start the game. Sam and Joey really were aggressive to start. It's kind of opened things up for me. We knew that coming into this tournament, it was a new season, so we had to have a clear mind.
When they got on that run, we stuck together. We stayed positive. We knew that we were going to have to throw a punch back in order to stay in the game and extend the lead. That was kind of the thought process with that, you know, just thinking next play, and that's what we did, and we were able to close it out with a great win.
Q. Steve, when you guys played St. John's throughout the regular season, they swept you and made it a close dogfight. This time around, you guys beat them in lopsided fashion. What changed to allow you guys to be so dominant?
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: I just thought it was one of our more complete performances of the year. I thought our defense was outstanding to hold them to 30 percent shooting from the floor and 15 percent shooting from the three-point line. Ponds was 4 for 14. I thought it all started with our defense. Then on the offensive end I thought we really shared the ball well. The ball found the best shot a lot of times.
So it was just a complete performance. They're a very good team. They have a lot of very talented players, and we feel very fortunate to have won.
Q. Markus, this is for you. Throughout your career, St. John's has done a really good job of sort of limiting you offensively. What did they do in the past, and what did you do differently tonight to sort of overcome that?
MARKUS HOWARD: They definitely used their length and athleticism to their advantage. They would speed me up a lot, and kind of what was the difference tonight was, given my teammates, they really stepped up big in terms of taking control of the game from the early start. Once they were able to do that, it kind of opened things up for me. So just trusting them and them really getting us off to a great start.
Q. Coach, I'm going to give you a lot of credit personally because four minutes in --
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: You know what, don't give me credit.
Q. Four minutes into the second half, St. John's cuts it to six, as these guys are talking about, less than four minutes in. All of a sudden, what do you do, defensively, like you said, you throw a center fielder at them. If people were watching the defense, you had two guys surrounding when they would start a drive because they had three three-pointers the entire game. Went up to 15 percent from three-point range. You stopped the drive. You put a center fielder. And when they were driving, they would hesitate instead of taking it through and pick up the fouls. That's where you won the game and won big. Congratulations.
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: Great question. (Laughter) Write that and put it all over the Internet.
Q. Obviously, Markus is a tremendous talent. He went out for 30 tonight and could seemingly get 30 anytime. Is he at his best when he creates for others, as well?
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: Markus is Big East Player of the Year for a reason, and it's not just because he can score. You're talking about a complete player who every team's game plan is geared to stop him. What he's been able to do this year is fantastic. It's hard when you command that much attention from a defense to make a great decision every time, especially when the ball is in your hand a lot, but he's done that more times than not. I mean, the vast majority of the time, or else he wouldn't be Big East Player of the Year.
I thought he played with great poise, great pace. I thought his teammates -- this was a team win. This was a team win, but, again, he's a great player, and we have a number of great players.
Q. Steve, it's kind of a take on the last question a little bit. You've known Markus for a good time now, and you've seen great performances from him. Given this is a team he's struggled against, did you sort of expect to see the best of him in a game like this?
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: I always expect to see the best of Markus because I have an incredible amount of belief in him, but I've also been in the game of college basketball long enough to know you're not going to pitch a perfect game every time you step on the mound. Cy Young winners don't go undefeated. So you're going to have games where you're not at your best. But, I mean, there's nobody I'd trade him for. Come on, this kid's a great player, and he's a great teammate, and his teammates are great with him.
So we've just got to continue to focus on the 17 guys that are on our roster and our coaches and let all the other noise dissipate because there's a lot of noise this time of year. That doesn't serve anybody within our circle. So this was a great win. We're going to learn why, and we're going to get on to the next thing.
Q. Sacar, it seems like every time you're scoring on the drive this year, everyone else hits the three-pointers. What can you say about your ability to just collapse that defense over and over and get through them on a night like tonight, and they light it up from outside for you?
SACAR ANIM: That was just a big focus going into the game, just trying to penetrate and create for other teammates. Obviously, I have terrific shooters around me -- Sam, Joey, and obviously Markus. So I want to get in there and make a great decision, whether it's being on the finish or kick it out for the three. So I just get a read off of it.
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: There's no question that our team is at our best when Sacar is in attack mode, and when he's attacking it, at the end of that attack, when he makes good decisions, our team takes on a whole other level, and he did that tonight.
Q. Marvin Clark has caused some issues in the past, but you hold him to no points today. What adjustment was made defensively specifically on him to stop that?
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: You didn't like my answer? [ Sacar left the room ].
Obviously, we put a number of different guys on him, and Sam and Joey were the two primary defenders, and I thought they did a really good job on him.
Q. Steve, could you just speak to what you guys did differently against Ponds this time around. I mean, he had two really good games the first time out, hold him to 14 points, just four field goals. What was different about the way you defended him this time around?
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: I thought you had great urgency and alertness defensively against him. I thought we didn't allow him to play in space because, when he's allowed to play in space, obviously, he's a great player. He hurt us, but I think he's averaging 22 points a game. So he must have hurt more than just us. Then we tried to make it hard for him to get it back when he gave it up.
Q. Steve, I assume you think St. John's is a tournament team. If so, what could they do in the tournament?
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI: Obviously, I'm not on the committee, but they're a terrific team. They're unusual in
that they start five guys who can all play on the perimeter. They have terrific isolation players, and they have a guy in Ponds who can take over a game. So their defense is unusual because they can switch all screens, whether it's on ball or off ball. I think they're an NCAA Tournament team. I'm hopeful that will be the case. I personally think they're worthy of it, and I'm not sure the committee cares what I think.