After losing three straight conference games, Butler needed a win – and Kelan Martin knew it. The senior scored 37 points and also led the team with seven rebounds, and the Bulldogs defeated Marquette 94-83 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler jumped out to an early lead, leading by as much as 14 in the first half, but the Golden Eagles battled back. Three free throws by Andrew Rowsey, a three-pointer by Sam Hauser and two buckets by Theo John helped Marquette whittle the deficit to six points at half-time.
Markus Howard, who averaged 22.8 points per game coming in, was held scoreless in the first half, but a second-half spurt by Howard and hot shooting by Hauser helped Marquette jump out to a seven-point lead with 10:06 remaining. Martin immediately responded with a three-point play and proceeded to go bonkers, scoring 20 points in the last ten minutes to lead Butler to victory.
Martin was helped by various contributors. Tyler Wideman had 16 points and two blocks, Paul Jorgensen had four rebounds and six assists, and Kamar Baldwin added 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists to stellar defense on Markus Howard. For Marquette, Hauser had a terrific night with 30 points.
Both teams are now firmly in the middle of the conference standings at 3-3 in Big East play.
Kelan Martin is a bad man
Okay, so anybody who has followed the Big East over the last few years knows that Kelan Martin is a great player. However, his career has been defined by inconsistency and falling just short of expectations thus far. In prior seasons, Martin has dominated non-conference play only to struggle when it really counted. This year seems to be a different story. Martin struggled mightily in Butler’s loss to Creighton on Tuesday (largely because of Creighton’s defense), but on Friday he simply refused to let the game slip away. If Martin can play like he did against Marquette (and Georgetown a few weeks ago), especially down the stretch, Butler should finish in the top half of the league.
Marquette needs to improve in the paint
A common basketball adage states: “You live and die by the three.” Marquette has mostly been living by the three thus far, but on Friday, a combination of solid perimeter defense by Butler and below average shooting by Marquette made the three-pointer less of a factor than it has been in previous games. Marquette still made ten threes, but without Rowsey and Howard pouring in triples, Butler was able to expose Marquette’s deficiencies in the paint. Marquette has to defend better and find more scoring opportunities in the interior. This will be especially important in the NCAA tournament, where every game is do-or-die, and a poor shooting night could spell your doom.
The Big East is quite fun
For the objective basketball fan, Butler-Marquette had to be a blast. Star players, intriguing story lines, lead changes... two teams that defeated Villanova and Seton Hall respectively, but find themselves at .500 in conference play. There appear to be seven really good teams in the conference, and Big East fans hope all of them will get into the NCAA tournament. In the meantime, some fun games await us over the next few weeks.