Sun, 17 Jan 2021

Freshmen are focal point for Marquette, Oklahoma State

Field Level Media
01 Dec 2020, 09:55 GMT+10

Everyone in college basketball knows about Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham. It's not by accident that a player is good enough to make the AP's Preseason All-America team before he plays a single game.

But Cunningham won't be the only talented freshman on the Fiserv Forum floor Tuesday night in Milwaukee when the Cowboys visit Marquette in a battle of 2-0 teams as part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

The Golden Eagles' Dawson Garcia is averaging 17.5 points and 6.0 rebounds, and doing so efficiently. After shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 84.6 percent at the foul line, Garcia earned Big East Conference Freshman of the Week honors.

That also doesn't come as breaking news to anyone in the conference. Marquette's 6-foot-11, 235-pound forward was named the conference's Preseason Freshman of the Year.

"I feel really comfortable," Garcia said after the 75-50 win Friday night over Eastern Illinois. "That just comes down to preparation and how my teammates, especially the upperclassmen, are bringing me along and showing me the ropes."

Garcia's presence, along with the return of a handful of key role players, should enable Marquette to make up for the graduation of Division I scoring leader Markus Howard. One of the returnees, center Theo John, is averaging 11 points and 10.5 rebounds through two games, giving the team a post-up scoring threat it didn't always possess last year.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has gone from struggling to score points against good opponents, as it sometimes did last year, to having a go-to guy who would be a go-to guy anywhere. The 2020 Naismith High School Player of the Year, the 6-8 Cunningham could have gone anywhere but chose to play this season in Stillwater.

He's leading the Big 12 in scoring at 20.5 ppg, canning 50 percent of his field-goal attempts and has converted 10 of 12 foul shots. What's more, he's contributing seven rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, displaying the all-around game that could make him a future NBA All-Star.

"I never think about it until I get asked about it," he told the Oklahoman when asked about the possibility of being the No. 1 pick in next year's NBA Draft. "We compete every day here. I think we're going to compete in every game."

In Saturday's 85-65 beating of Texas Southern, Cunningham produced 20 points on just 12 shots. Fellow freshman Rondel Walker chipped in 19 off the bench, making three 3-pointers.

The downside to this year for the Cowboys, of course, is the postseason ban handed down by the NCAA due to transgressions by former program assistant Lamont Evans unveiled in the 2017 FBI investigation.

--Field Level Media

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