This week, we watched Marquette play 2 games in which they appeared to be 2 completely different teams based on whether it was the first half or the second half. Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly), they strung the two bad halves together, blowing a 17 point lead against Georgetown and then turning around and going into a 23 point hole against Syracuse. Forming bookends to that disasterous 40 minutes was two halves where Marquette built a significant lead against the #9 team in the country on their floor and then a half where they threw a scare into the #1 team in the country again on the road.
To steal an oft-used phrase from a popular Chicago sports radio segment: Well, which one is it?
Let's look at what Marquette did in the bad 40 minutes with an assessment of the Four Factors:
It's one thing to go stone cold on your end of the floor. Shots didn't fall. Fine. It happens. But you can't get sloppy with the basketball, and you definitely can't let your offensive woes affect your mindset on the defensive end. That's how you end up getting outscored 81-46.
A slight disclaimer on what you're probably wondering right now: While that 70.3% on the FT Rate looks nice and shiny, it's just the percentage created from the ratio of free throws to field goals. When you have 37 shots in 40 minutes, it's slightly easier to get 70% of that number in free throws. It's also worth noting that Georgetown & Syracuse were only called for 2 more fouls in this section than in the other.
Enough of this downer end. Let's look at what the stats looked like when Marquette was rolling.
First up: Marquette had 34 made field goals in this section, as opposed to 37 attempts in the previous section. Next, look at how much more efficient Marquette's offense was here. From under 0.7 points per possession to nearly 1.25. That's nuts!
Let's for a moment look at the defensive column. Not as drastic of a change in the defensive points per possession as the offensive side. But, the important thing to look at is what the scoring result is. During this 40 minutes, Marquette outscored their opponent 91-65, for a differential of +26. When we compare this to the -35 differential when things were going badly, it's rather apparent that when things are good, they're good, but when things are bad, they're VERY bad.
Now, I'm not smart enough to be able to isolate what was and wasn't going right for Marquette during each section. But Buzz Williams and his staff are. And as Cracked Sidewalks pointed out, Marquette had their two best performances since Chris Otule was injured in these games, even with half of each game being outlandishly terrible. If Buzz and his staff can figure out how to eliminate even the worst 5% of each half, things could be looking up for the Golden Eagles, even with Big Chris officially being done for the year.