What a frustrating loss this was, as MU is now 7-3 on the year after losing a close one at home to Bucky. Marquette did more bad than good in this game, and had plenty of opportunities to get its first statement win. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until December 29 to see if we can get our first big win of the year when we play at Vandy.
Poor defense was apparent throughout the game for the golden eagles. Although the final stats don't show it, Wisconsin torched us from behind the arc in the first half (but only 32% for the game). On offense, Bucky was able to collapse the defenders on dribble-drives and kick the rock out to an open man waiting on the perimeter. This has plagued us throughout the season so that's really nothing new. The other first-half killer was the amount of scoring that came late in a series. For the first 30 seconds, Marquette would play great, tenacious defense and keep the badgers high on the perimeter. Once the shot clock began to wind down though, the badgers would make a late move to the bucket or hit a deep shot with the shot clock expiring. It was almost as if we gave up on some of those defensive series.
In the second half, MU failed to pick up switches and play help-side defense, which lead to a lot of easy inside buckets and offensive boards for Wisconsin. This worries me a little more, as this is a pretty fundamental key to playing good defense. Hopefully it was just a fluke. I feel like some of those boards could have gone MU's way with a little more hustle.
Offensively, Marquette had another good outing behind the perimeter (44% from 3-point land), but only took nine 3's. DJO shot poorly from long range again, going 0-3. In fact, DJO had a weak performance altogether, going 1-9 from the field. Watching him yesterday reminded me of Jerel McNeal after Dominic James went down. I think DJO is trying to do too much out there and play the hero every time he has the ball. He had zero assists on the day, and I know a few of those eight misses he had could have been better served as passes to someone else. Some of the shots he took on drives to the hoop were just plain dumb as they were completely contested; I'm sure Buzz will be working on that with him plenty this week.
Not that this is a great excuse for why we lost, but the refs made plenty of poor calls against MU yesterday. Two of them stick out in my mind. The first being when Jimmy Butler drove up the weak side for a pull-up jumper and was hacked on his way going up. He basically stopped playing because he knew how badly he was hacked, and the refs called traveling on him once he came back down. The look on Jimmy's face said it all as he was running to the other side of the court. The other was in the late seconds of the game. To those that didn't get a chance to watch it, Marquette was down 5 points with 10 seconds to go when Jimmy Butler made a clutch 3-pointer from the baseline to pull us within 2. After we immediately fouled Jordan Taylor on the inbounds pass, he made his first free throw and missed his second. We got the defensive board and Dwight Buycks took the ball up the court with 7 seconds on the clock. After he crossed half court, the ball was knocked loose by a Wisconsin defender and the refs gave the possession to Wisconsin. MU had no choice but to foul immediately with 2 seconds left and Taylor made both of his free throws, game over.
From my view 16 rows behind Marquette's basket, I say there was no way the refs could have clearly seen that Buycks last touched the ball before it went out of bounds. In a tight game like that, they directly affected the outcome and didn't give us a chance to tie the game on a call that was basically a toss-up. On calls like that, you have to assume that the defender touched it last. But I digress.
On an up note, thanks again to Volvo for the free ride, hotel room, and tickets to the game. I have to say, the S60 was a pretty nice ride, and very different from what I typically think of as far as Volvos go. I'll post some pictures from the weekend in the next couple of days.
Marquette's next matchup is against Centenary on Saturday.