Marquette (5-3) struggled to breakdown a stout No. 24 San Diego State (5-1) defense in the finals of the Wooden Legacy Classic in Anaheim Sunday and lost 67-59.
The Golden Eagles turned the ball over 15 times and made just one of their 11 3-point attempts. They also went 16-for-26 from the free throw line for a disappointing 61.5 percent. They made 21 field goals and shot 42 percent from the field, but assisted on just five of those baskets, an atrocious rate for a team that prides itself on ball movement and had been assisting on 69 percent of its made baskets.
"It's hard to get assists within how [the Aztecs] are playing," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "You have to play in straight lines…when there's a shell around the paint because they're switching everything, it's hard to go straight. You end up playing east and west, which means that it's going to be hard to get assisted baskets."
San Diego State led almost wire-to-wire, but Marquette surged back late in the second half and tied the game at 53 with about three minutes left. From that point, the Aztecs closed out the game with stellar defense and offensive rebounding.
"When you play on the road and you play a top 25 team, you have to be able to finish games," Williams said.
Williams also expressed his distaste with his team allowing SDSU to score 14 points in transition and off of offensive rebounds and 17 points from the charity stripe.
"Those are hard, hard numbers," Williams said.
Marquette did almost nothing about top Aztecs' scorer Xavier Thames. The Wooden Legacy most valuable player scored a career-high 29 points on 7-for-16 shooting, including 5-for-6 on three balls.
Freshman forward Deonte Burton was the only Marquette player in double-figures scoring on the night. He had the best game of his young career, shooting 6-for-8 from the field and showing off an impressive bit of aggressiveness to the basket.
"He's a good player, I've said that all along," Williams said. "We need him to keep growing. In 16 minutes, he got one defensive rebound…we've got to have more of a presence on the offensive glass."
Derrick Wilson and Jamil Wilson each made four field goals and scored nine points for the Golden Eagles. Chris Otule added six points and nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Williams was especially impressed with Derrick Wilson's continued improvement.
"I like Derrick, and I think Derrick's going to continue to get better," Williams said. "I think his confidence is growing. I believed in Derrick more than Derrick believed in himself…until somebody puts the ball in your hand, true confidence only comes from your work. I can be saying all I'm saying, but you've got to do it."
Marquette fell out of the top 25 for the first time this season with the loss, and the slate doesn't get any easier. The Golden Eagles travel to Madison Saturday to take on No. 8/9 Wisconsin in the annual renewal of their great in-state rivalry.