Buzz Williams concerned with team effort, not just shooting

MILWAUKEE — Nearly an hour after his team put on yet
another lackluster performance, Buzz Williams wasn’t at a loss for words when
it came to dissecting what has gone wrong through four games.

The Marquette coach feels the program has suddenly hit a
bump in the road, starting from the top and working its way down. Just days
after scoring 35 points in a loss to Ohio State, No. 25 Marquette narrowly
escaped with a 58-53 win over New Hampshire. 

While the numbers make it obvious as to why the Golden Eagles
have struggled offensively, Williams feels its more than just shooting 18.9
percent from the field against Ohio State and 32.7 percent against New
Hampshire.

To him, Marquette’s effort hasn’t been good enough to earn
the right to make shots.

After shooting 18.9 percent in the loss to the Buckeyes, the
Golden Eagles made just 32.7 percent of their field goals Thursday night.
Marquette has made just 4 of its last 40 3-point attempts, finishing 3-of-22
from beyond the arc against New Hampshire.

“As much as shooting will be the focal point of what
you guys write, I think the issue has to become how hard we play,”
Williams said. “Last year without argument you could say we couldn’t
shoot, but we led the Big East in field goal percentage. How can you justify
that? You can’t say it’s because we have a bunch of guys that can shoot. It was
established we don’t have anybody that can shoot.

“I think at some point you have to rewind to did you
earn the right to make that shot? That has to be earned by how hard you play.
We’re not playing near hard enough. That’s not a coaching rant.

“I’m telling all of you the same thing I told the team.
I don’t think that’s necessarily the right thing to do, to be as transparent as
I am. We have to get back to how we laid the foundation in the time that we’ve
been here and how we’ve built the foundation in the time that we’ve been here.
Somewhere along the way, and I’m at the front of the line, there has been a
disconnect in how we function.”

Apparently fed up with a lot of things, Williams was set off
by a question on if he had learned anything about his rotation through four
games.

“Without being sarcastic, what would you say?”
Williams said. “How could you be any more clear? I think Chris Otule will
start at Arizona State. Other than my wife, I trust him impeccably on and off
the floor. I think he took a charge. Charges are hard to get anymore. It seems
like a guy that can’t see and really can’t shoot, he was 6-of-7 from the field.
I know the response, they were all bunnies. OK, 6-of-7, though. I think he’s a
45 percent free-throw shooter. He was 4-of-7 from the free-throw line and he
can’t shoot, but somehow he made 4-of-7.

“Percentage wise, if you add the rest of those guys up,
that’s what they shot. Supposedly some of those guys can shoot and they don’t
go in for some reason. Chris earns it. Unless he gets hurt, and I pray that he
doesn’t, Chris will start.”

How did Marquette — a team that’s made it to at least the
Sweet 16 in each of the last three years — get to the point of searching for
answers just four games after being picked to win the Big East? Williams
doesn’t know but wants to lead the charge in correcting the problem.

“One way or another, without being arrogant or getting
my ego involved, we’re going to figure it out and that doesn’t mean we are
going to win,” Williams continued. “But we are going to figure out
somehow to get back because I’m really ashamed to what I have done to
contribute to what we have been through four games.

“And I’m not concerned as to who plays and how old they
are and what position they play or when they play or how much they play. I’ll
continue to answer all of your questions: Why didn’t Jajuan play? Why didn’t
John play against Ohio State? Why doesn’t Jamil play the point? Well, Derrick
was 1-of-6 and Jake was 0-of-7 and Jamil was 1-of-9 (against Ohio State).

“And all of the e-mails and all of the text messages
that I get on how to help us shoot better and how to run a better offense, and
I understand, I appreciate the passion. We’ve played in 13 NCAA tournament
games, and I don’t have amnesia yet but in the industry I have it’s probably
heading in that direction, but until such time that it does, we’re going to go
back to way things should be.”

Williams’ message at media day was as clear as his rant was
Thursday: Marquette had a handful of established players who needed to step up
further and a group of newcomers and inexperienced players that had to be
worked in.

That challenge may have been tougher than anticipated, at
least early on.

“Once you do become known, becoming known more or known
better is a bear,” Williams said. “I think we have some guys that we
think are known, but yet they haven’t proved they are worthy of being known. We
have some guys who are trying to become known and the examples of guys they are
following that they think are known is probably not the right example.

“At the end of the day, I have to be the one that is
known, and I don’t mean that egotistically. I have to be the example for all of
them, and this is how we are going to operate. If you can’t handle this is how
we operate, then we probably will have to make some adjustments.”

Despite being noticeably agitated at his team’s performance,
Williams wanted to make sure he slipped in his admiration of New Hampshire for
forcing Marquette to play the way it did.

“They won at Duquesne and if just a few more
possessions went right, they would have won tonight,” Williams said.
“I want to make sure that whoever is writing, I know you want to focus on
the rant, I’m fine with that too, but I would like you to add a sentence of my
respect to coach Herrion and their program.”

With a tough test against Arizona State and a tournament in
California looming, can Marquette fix its shooting woes before it’s too late?

“I hope so,” Williams said. “We’ll find out.
It will be a really long year if we don’t.”

Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter