Marquette started fast and made the game competitive early on, but Wisconsin used a huge second half to propel themselves to victory, 93-84.
The first half was defined by the ebb and flow, with the teams trading leads and neither side being able to find a groove to pull away with. Star forward Ethan Happ of Wisconsin picked up two fouls in less than two minutes, and the crowd at the Bradley Center could feel that something special could happen. And happen it did. Marquette rode a streak of 4/4 from the 3-point arc, including a 3/3 display from Katin Reinhardt, who had notoriously been struggling as of late. The half even ended on a high note, with Andrew Rowsey being fouled shooting a three with 2.6 seconds left and sinking all three to send Marquette into the locker room with a 40-35 lead.
And then, Marquette forgot the wheels to the bus in the locker room.
Marquette came out with and looked absolutely lifeless in the second half. At one point, after leading by five at half, Marquette was on the wrong end of a 32-10 run by the Badgers, wilting under adversity and never finding a way to truly get back into the game, losing 93-84, with the score not showing just how much of a gap there was during the game, particularly the second half.
Happ’s two quick fouls should have set the pace for the first half, but even with Happ out, Wisconsin played tough defense on Luke Fischer inside, limiting him as much as they could and not letting his size and skill dictate the flow of the game. The Marquette lead was a product of a few tough shots and great plays made by the guard corps, led by Markus Howard, who ended with a game high 22 points (after a week of 5-6 IV bags of fluid fighting a stomach virus!). In the first half alone, Howard made one of this three three-pointers and had two and ones that he converted, providing some incredibly young leadership to the team.
Reinhardt’s quick start (13 points at the half) quickly derailed, as he airballed his next two threes after starting 4/4 from the arc. He followed it up with a flop after playing good defense for 26 seconds on a shot clock, allowing a Nigel Hayes dunk. His game has struggled this year, and when he finally showed the offensive prowess (or at least a flash of it) that he was so highly touted for, he let it get to his head, making poor decisions on offense and trusting too much in being hot instead of allowing himself time to make the right call on both offense and defense.
Sam Hauser, the wunderkind himself, had his most forgettable game in a Marquette uniform so far, going 0-1 from the floor en route to zero points and fouling out. He hadn’t played against a team as good as Wisconsin, but he looked lost trying to run with the Nigel Hayes-Vito Brown combo. He saw 18 minutes of floor time and it felt like he only was out there for eight, given his lack of impact on the game.
Also invisible, for the most part, were two of Marquette’s most prolific scorers, Jajuan Johnson and Haanif Cheatham. Cheatham had 16 points, but picked up a lot of those in garbage time once the result had been finalized while trying to vainly bring Marquette back into the game. Johnson contributed four points on 2-5 shooting in just 15 minutes of action, a far cry from his usual numbers. Marquette needed them to show up and, for the most part, they were nowhere to be found.
A very tough loss for Marquette, indeed, and a lot of problems that had plagued the team were put on display at their worst today. Bad pick and roll defense, not dealing with adversity well, and the inability to realize the second half had started are just a few of these issues.
This leaves Marquette in a tough spot in their nonconference schedule. Their best win will be against Georgia, which, while a good win, is not optimal as a “best win”. They have lost to the two teams that will make the tournament (Michigan and Wisconsin), and they haven’t looked like they belonged in either (Michigan moreso than Wisconsin, but this was still a tough game to experience in the second half). They’ll play a couple more teams they should beat and then get Georgetown at home to start Big East play. If they don’t figure out their problems soon, it’s going to be a tough year in one of the toughest basketball conferences in the nation for your Golden Eagles.
- Markus Howard is the most mature 17 year old I’ve ever met. After leading all scorers, he came to the press conference and talked team, team, team.
- As much as I hate all things Madison, Greg Gard has taken the best part of his predecessor’s system and added being a good person on top of it. He’s a quality coach and has a good program going under his guidance (it physically hurts me to say that).
- The refs did not lose this game for Marquette, but they presented a tough obstacle. At one point in the second half Marquette had 9 fouls to Wisconsin’s 2, including Markus Howard getting elbowed in the face being called a block. Much more ticky-tack was called against Marquette, but it wasn’t what lost the Golden Eagles the game.