Marquette's first real test of the season came against the Duke Blue Devils, the number one team in the land. The game wasn't as close as the final score might imply, as Duke lead by double-digits for 8 of the last 10 minutes.
MU showed flashes of how good it can be. For the first 10 minutes of the second half, they erased the 9-point halftime deficit and tied the game up. As I had noted would be a key to the game, they won the interior battle, forcing turnovers and scoring points in the paint. As the game wore on though, so did Marquette and the Plumlee brothers torched us inside by simply outhustling us. All of a sudden Duke was up by 11 points, and the game appeared to be slipping away. Marquette chipped away at the lead, but it was too late to stage a comeback. The golden eagles suffered their first loss of the season and are now 4-1. They will play Gonzaga in the consolation game tonight.
Jimmy Butler had a career night with 22 points. Jae Crowder had his usual stud performance with 15 points and 4 steals. Davante Gardner showed some signs of pain on the court after separating his shoulder against South Dakota, but managed to stick out the game. Fulce was in street clothes, as he also injured himself against South Dakota and is expected to return in 2 weeks.
As far as stats go, 3-point FG% stunk at 20%, and while MU forced an impressive 19 turnovers, they turned the ball over on 17% of their possessions. Although 17% isn't terribly high, every turnover seemed to have a huge impact. A lot of Marquette's turnovers seemed to be self-inflicted, a sign that this team is still young and has to get used to playing together.
The one play that absolutely killed me to watch was the three-on-one breakaway they had that ended in a charge. DJO took the ball down the court against Kyle Singler with 2 options to pass to, yet elected to take the ball himself. Singler took the charge - Duke basketball (Aaaahhhh!!!!). What really hurts is that it was DJO who made the charge, a guy who's got a year of D-1 experience under his belt and can beat just about anybody in a one-on-one matchup. That has to be fixed.
All in all, despite Marquette's woes tonight, they managed to hang in there with Duke for most of the way. Remember, this is a team that doesn't get blown out, which means on any given night we're capable of beating anyone. I didn't expect us to win this game, but can't really complain about losing by 5 points to the defending champs and #1 team in the land.
MU plays Gonzaga tonight in the battle for Jesuit supremacy at 6:45.