Mixed bag of emotions for the golden eagles this past week, with a win and loss against two of their Catholic rivals in DePaul and Notre Dame. Marquette dominated the blue demons last Tuesday with a 30-point victory, but blew a 9-point halftime lead to fall to Notre Dame on Saturday. Saturday's loss was yet another game that Marquette should've won, but just couldn't seem to hold on.
Not a ton to take away from the DePaul victory, as they've only won a single conference game since 2009 (yeah I know, it was against us, worst $40 I've ever spent on tickets). MU did a phenomenal job in the turnover battle, not only protecting the basketball, but scoring off of every DePaul turnover (39 points off of turnovers, I believe). Jimmy F. Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom lead the way with 20 points apiece. Jae Crowder was one rebound and 4 assists away from a triple-double. The game was close for the first 10 minutes, until Marquette went on a scoring spree and never looked back.
Unfortunately, the ND loss was a more important game to note. Here's your recap.
Marquette started out very strong in this game. They hit their 3-point and 2-point jump shots, drew contact on inside buckets, and forced a few key turnovers. The golden eagles quickly raced out to an early lead and had a decent cushion for most of the first half. The crowd was quickly taken out of this game, and it seemed as though the irish wouldn't be getting their revenge on Marquette after the 22-point beat-down they suffered in Milwaukee 2 weeks ago.
And then the second half happened. Both teams played the opposite of their first half performance, and Marquette's collapse ultimately lead to a 5 point loss in South Bend. Notre Dame switched to a 2-3 zone in the second half and absolutely stifled the golden eagles. Marquette was able to stretch the zone in the last match-up between these two with great perimeter shooting, but the offense quickly cooled off in the second half, and before you knew it, Notre Dame was up by double digits. MU got killed on the inside off of ball screens and gave up way too many points in the paint. Marquette's counter move was to try and break the zone and score inside, but nothing seemed to fall. With 10 minutes left in the game, you could already tell that this game was going to end in a W for Notre Dame. Even perimeter shooting fell apart for MU in the second half. As if size wasn't a big enough issue for us, Chris Otule and Jae Crowder were both fouled out by the time there was 3 minutes left on the clock. When you add it all up, we really didn't give ourselves a chance to come out of this crucial road game with a win.
Buzz has to be feeling some heat at this point, after blowing 2 comfortable leads on the road in the team's last 3 games. While the offense could have played much better in South Bend, defense was what put Notre Dame (and the crowd) right back in the game. Switching match-ups off of ball screens, defensive boards, and hustle have taken this team out of must-win games. Fouling has been a strength of ours all season, and while the refs did call a few ticky-tack fouls (thank you Ed Hightower), Marquette could've played much smarter on defense. DJO has been one of the team's best defenders this season, and was torched by Ben Hansbrough, who ended with 28 points on the night.
Something has to change for this team, and fast.