With a bid to the NCAA Tournament still on the line, MU had a crucial home match-up against Cincinnati Wednesday night. With a win, we would've been on pace to finish 11-7 in conference play and secure a bye in the Big East Tournament. Cincy, on the other hand, had a different plan in mind, and simply outplayed us and won 67-60. With the loss, we're now 9-8 in conference play and desperately need a win at Seton Hall on Saturday.
The calling card of the bearcats is their defense, and this was very apparent last night. Cincy played a 2-3 zone against us that we just couldn't seem to figure out. We had a tough time finding guys to get open which lead to costly turnovers. Their full-court press seemed to stifle us too, as if we'd never seen a press before. Junior Cadougan made a few foolish passes across the key that turned into easy buckets for the bearcats and killed any momentum we had. Along with the turnovers, we had a poor shooting night (39% from the field, 20% from the three) which kept us from gaining any traction against the bearcats.
At the half, MU was down by 6 and had a pathetic 3 assists matched with 9 turnovers. In the second half, Cincy played good enough on defense (or maybe we played poor enough on offense) that we never were able to get within 5 points down the stretch. With a minute to go and a 5-point deficit, Marquette had a phenomenal chance to get back in the game with two open 3-point opportunities (I believe DJO and Buycks had the open looks) but hesitated on both which ultimately resulted in a missed shot, a Cincy rebound,and 20 crucial seconds burned off the clock. At that point, we were down too much to stage a comeback through fouling and the bearcats held on to win by 7.
After turning the ball over 11 times on 57 possessions against Cincy, this is now the second game in a row where we've turned over the ball on at least 19% of our possessions (AAAHHHH!!!). Once may be a fluke, but twice is a trend, and if the trend continues, then we picked the absolute worst time to up our turnovers. The question is: what's causing this? Is it the fact that we're still a young team? Is Cadougan trying to do too much in the point guard role? Did the pressure of winning a game on senior night for the first time in three years prove to be too much? Whatever it is, Buzz has 3 days to fix it on the road and 2 more days to prep for the Big East Tournament. Maybe... I don't know... work on beating the press??? But I digress...
A couple bright spots despite the loss. As usual, we won the foul situation, 22-10. Unfortunately Cincy runs 9 deep each game so there was never an opportunity to get their guys in serious foul trouble. The other, and more important, point of the night was Jimmy Butler's performance in his last home game in a gold uniform. I'm sure his back was killing him after the game, because he absolutely carried us for 40 minutes. Every time we had nothing going on offense, Butler took the game in his hands and made a spectacular cut to the rim to both draw contact and put points on the board. Butler finished the game with 30 points, 6 boards, and 3 steals (did I mention he went 15-17 from the charity stripe?). Well done Jimmy, we're going to miss you.
Nothing major to take away from the Senior Night speeches. Rob Frozena by far got the most applause when it was his turn to talk. Speaking of Frozena, you've gotta give this guy tons of credit. He worked just as hard as everybody else on the team and got virtually no playing time to show for it (18 career points, 12 less than Jimmy Butler scored last night). Congrats to Rob on being the first ever four-year walk-on to play for Marquette. There's a lot to be said for what you've done as a student athlete.
Oh, and one more thing... Dear Students: Please show up to the MU home games next year. If I can make the 90-mile drive, you can make the 12-block walk. Thank you.