New rules put premium on backcourt play

Marquette’s anemic offensive output in its 52-35 loss to Ohio State on Saturday afternoon wasn’t exactly what the NCAA men’s basketball competition committee had in mind when it sought to increase scoring this season.

Freedom of movement meant the Golden Eagles could miss more shots without being impeded by a hand check. The Buckeyes weren’t any better in the first half, as they needed a late basket to tie the game at 19 going into intermission.

It was the lowest combined halftime score in Division I this season.

Despite the rules to benefit offense and increase scoring, a team without at least one scorer in the backcourt is a team that is going to struggle.

Marquette was the prime example Saturday.

Yes, it’s still early in the season and teams are adapting to new personnel and new lineups.

But other ranked teams like Florida, Virginia and Syracuse -- all of which started freshman point guards -- managed to work through slow first-half starts to post double-digit victories.

The Golden Eagles, who had to replace their entire starting backcourt from last season, actually shot worse in the second half. After making just 6 of 29 shots in the first half, they made just 4 of 24 in the second.

It wasn’t the pace of the game that led to their low scoring output. They had 20 turnovers. They missed open shots. And that snowballed into taking bad shots, too.

Even senior forward Davante Gardner, all 6-foot-8 and 290 pounds of him, for some reason felt compelled to launch a 3-pointer in the first half, which marked just his eighth career attempt.

The strength of the Golden Eagles is in their front court, with Gardner and Chris Otule on the blocks. Neither one of those guys can break down a defender off the dribble and create his own shot. That should be up to the backcourt, but no one in the Golden Eagles’ current rotation fits that description.

Junior guard Derrick Wilson isn’t a scorer. He’d taken only a combined two field goal attempts in their first two games, and went 1-for-7 against the Buckeyes. Wilson had never really played extended minutes at point guard, either, but is being forced in the role this season.

Senior Jake Thomas is a good spot-up shooter, but never quite got any open looks. Although he entered the game making 3 of 7 from behind the arc, he missed all seven of his shot attempts against the Buckeyes, including six 3-pointers.

Junior Todd Mayo generally is a scoring boost to the backcourt from off the bench. He scored a team-high 11 points Saturday, but needed 15 shots to get there.

Ohio State’s backcourt shook off its 7-of-26 shooting performance in the first half thanks to its backcourt getting better shots in the second half. And by better shots I mean layups and runouts.

Shannon Scott led the charge for Ohio State, going 5-for-10 in the second half to finish with 13 points. Scott missed all four of his 3-point attempts but kept attacking the rim for high-percentage shots.

Aaron Craft, meanwhile, went 4-of-5 in the second half after making just one of his four shots in the first. He got layups, too, and the Buckeyes scored 12 points before the first media timeout of the second half.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta could expect that from his veteran backcourt. Freshman point guards London Perrantes at Virginia, Tyler Ennis at Syracuse and Kasey Hill at Florida seem to be slowly learning despite stumbling blocks.

Perrantes only scored five points in the Cavaliers’ 70-57 win over Davidson, but he added five assists and no turnovers. He didn’t need to score, as backcourt mate Malcolm Brogdon netted 17 on 7-of-10 shooting.

Ennis had a shaky season debut, but has played well in the two games since, including his 12-point performance as the Orange beat Colgate 69-50.

Hill is starting for the Gators while Scott Wilbekin serves his suspension. Hill had six assists and scored eight of his 14 points in the second half and helped Florida run past Arkansas-Little Rock 86-56 despite being tied at the half.