Been travelin’ down that lonesome road,
Feel like I’m dragging a heavy load.
Don’t try to turn my head away
If you’ve been paying close attention in the last couple weeks, you know that YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles have been flirtin’ with disaster – and, by the way, welcome to Anonymous Eagle, your home for musical references from 35 years ago – despite their recently-extinguished three-game winning streak. There was serious trouble bubbling just beneath the surface in Marquette’s wins over Seton Hall and Xavier, where massive turnovers from the Pirates and X-Men obscured the fact that MU’s shooting defense got torched.
When you’re allowing the opponent to score whenever they can manage to get a shot up, things are going to come to a head sooner or later – and when the rampaging Bluejays of Creighton are in town, sooner is much more likely than later. And that’s exactly what came to pass on Wednesday night, when Marquette submitted its worst effort in terms of shooting defense in the last 10 years and #11 Creighton left Milwaukee with a 85-70 win.
Since you’re all faithful readers of Brewtown Andy’s Four Factors breakdowns, you’re intimately familiar with effective field goal percentage and how important eFG% is for a team’s chances of success. (Just in case you’re not faithful readers: eFG% is a slightly modified version of field goal percentage which reflects the obvious fact that 3-point baskets are worth more than 2-point baskets. So: you take 3-point makes, multiply by 1.5, add in 2-point makes, and divide by field goals attempted.) Thus, you will understand how incredible and horrible and awe-inspiring the following number is:
Creighton’s effective field goal percentage against Marquette was 75.6%.
In case I’m not making my point clearly enough, let me repeat that in capital letters with a bunch of exclamation points: CREIGHTON’S EFFECTIVE FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE AGAINST MARQUETTE WAS SEVENTY-FREAKING-FIVE-POINT-
Now, make no mistake: Creighton is a well-constructed machine of death on offense. The Jays are the No. 1 ranked offense in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, with a preposterous adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 126.9 (nearly 127 points per 100 possessions). As a TEAM, they shoot 42.6% from 3-point range. They have the National Player of the Year and a 6’8" cat who only shoots 3-pointers (and makes half of ‘em) and a bunch of sharp-shooters who would give even great defenses fits.
But it wasn’t a case of "well, those things will happen when you play Creighton" on Wednesday night. Creighton has managed an eFG% over 70% four times this year: against Chicago State, twice against Villanova (because apparently Jay Wright has even less of a clue on how to defend CU than Buzz Williams), and now against Marquette. That game was the culmination of the last 10 days, with bad habits – playing for steals, overplaying passing lanes, Coach Buzz’s unwavering insistence on doubling on every paint touch, etc. – finally catching up to MU and biting them in the ass in a big way.
To be sure, thanks in part to some truly terrible officiating, Marquette hung around longer than it probably should have, given how atrocious the defense was. Derrick Wilson attacked the rim with fervor early, Jake Thomas hit a couple of pretty jumpers, and Deonte Burton bulldozed his way to 11 points. But with Creighton packing the paint and rendering Davante Gardner completely irrelevant, Marquette had no chance of scoring enough to match Creighton’s absurd efficiency.
MU had trimmed a double-digit deficit to five with exactly seven minutes to play, and that’s when the bottom completely fell out. After "limiting" Creighton to an eFG% of 50% in the first 13 minutes of the second half, the Jays posted an astounding eFG% of 100% (supply your own exclamation points for emphasis, we're out of stock now) over the game’s final 7 minutes: including Doug McDermott’s "nothing you can do about that" 48-foot 3-pointer with the shot clock set to expire, CU attempted 10 field goals in the last 7 minutes. They made four 2-point baskets (most on layups) and four 3-point baskets and turned the game into the rout it deserved to be.
After the game, Coach Buzz was strangely upbeat, telling Homer and Mac that he felt much better following this dumptrucking than he did when St. John’s kicked Marquette’s teeth in at the beginning of February. Maybe he hadn’t seen the advanced stats yet; maybe he was pleased that none of his players visibly quit on the game, like Jamil Wilson and Ox did during the St. John’s debacle. Other than that, though, I’m not sure what there was to feel good about. This team has been in full-on "plug one leak, two more spring up" mode all season long, and Wednesday’s game was the latest and perhaps greatest example.
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: There are huge blemishes on every player’s performance – Derrick Wilson started strong but then went meekly into the night on offense (and went just 2-7 from the stripe), Jake Thomas disappeared after the first half, Todd Mayo killed the team’s momentum with a 3-point attempt that came way too early in the shot clock, Ox was invisible on offense and got destroyed by Ethan Wragge on the other end, and Jamil Wilson was tasked with covering McDermott when the NPOY went off for 17 in the second half – so I guess we’ll go with Deonte Burton, who managed 11 points and 4 rebounds in just 10 minutes and even hit a 3 for good measure.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Despite his woes from the foul line, Derrick Wilson managed to rack up four rebounds (including three on the offensive end) and six assists with just one turnover in 39 minutes. That was pretty OK.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: I think I understand what Todd Mayo’s thought process was when he jacked that 3-point attempt with 30 seconds left on the shot clock and Marquette down just 46-41 with 16 minutes left: catch the Jays napping, get off a decent look without a hand in your face, cut the lead to two. Unfortunately, I don’t think Todd realized: when you miss that shot, and Creighton snags the long rebound and your team is scrambling to get back and McDermott gets a wide-open look 6 seconds later, that’s a back breaker.
Up Next: The short-handed and downtrodden DePaul Blue Demons host YOUR Golden Eagles tomorrow to complete our annual "this used to be our rival" series. The tip’s at 1:00 p.m. in front of what’s sure to be a rollicking crowd of at least two dozen at the Allstate Arena, and possibly twice that watching around the country on Blue Demon Day.