Way back at the beginning of February, after Marquette had just finished getting pantsed by St. John's on a national stage, someone felt the need to ask Coach Buzz Williams about Marquette's flagging NCAA Tournament hopes. Coach Buzz responded that he thought the team needed to post a 7-2 mark in the second half of the conference schedule to even have a chance at entering the Tournament discussion.
It hasn't always been pretty (actually, has it ever been pretty?), but YOUR Golden Eagles have run off five wins versus one (horrifying) defeat in the last four weeks, and last night's hair-raising 75-73 win over Georgetown kept the dream alive. To be sure, the dream is on life support at this point, with a priest standing by to administer the last rites on a moment's notice, but it's alive nonetheless.
Last night's win followed the familiar pattern we've come to expect this season: there was some good, plenty of bad, and a buttload of ugly officiating. On the happy side of the ledger: shaking off what's been alternately reported as a partial shoulder separation or a slight shoulder dislocation -- and, by the way, a dislocation is one of those injuries that can only be termed "slight" when you're not the one who suffered it, because owwww -- suffered in Saturday's non-loss against DePaul, Jake Thomas one-upped his stellar performance at home against Xavier with a marvelous 22-point effort on the strength of 6-9 shooting from deep. And when Thomas wasn't killing Georgetown from distance, Davante Gardner was having his way with the Hoyas' foul-decimated front line, demolishing Nate Lubick and Moses Ayegba and Bradley Hayes to the tune of 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists for good measure.
On the other hand: Marquette's struggling defense got lit up again in the first half, with the Hoyas running up 40 points and 1.28 points per possession with a disheartening eFG% of 62%. That number got much better in the second half, as Georgetown limped in with an eFG of just 45% for the game. But the points per possession number didn't shrink that much, thanks to a spectacularly awful officiating crew featuring the perennially-shitty Ed Corbett and Michael Stephens.
And that brings us to the ugly. We're not shy, of course, about noting how horrendous the state of college basketball officiating is right now, but last night's game warrants special mention. There were FIFTY-ONE fouls whistled in the contest, with 26 against Georgetown and 25 against Marquette. It's the rare game when both sides can say "man, we got screwed by the refs," but last night certainly qualifies. On Georgetown's side, Lubick and Ayegba were both disqualified by the 12 minute mark of the second half, and Mikael Hopkins managed just 12 minutes while picking up 4 fouls of his own. On Marquette's side, a staggering four players -- Derrick Wilson, Jamil Wilson, Thomas, and Juan Anderson -- finished with four personal fouls, and Georgetown had a parade to the line in the final 11 minutes of the game. Markel Starks was the primary beneficiary of the double bonus, even though he was twice rewarded with two foul shots after he stepped on a Marquette player's foot and fell over.
And we haven't even talked about the laughable technical fouls handed out by Corbett's crew. Jake Thomas was the first to get hit with a T, and he now owns the proud distinction of being rung up for TAUNTING HIS OWN BENCH.* That technical led to a four-point swing for the Hoyas, who looked poised to steal back the momentum from MU until Jabril Trawick got a technical of his own for ... something. Playing defense, it seems. I'm still not really sure.
* This calls to mind the time Rick Pitino was assessed a technical foul by King Karl Hess for yelling at his own player.
Anyway: Georgetown cashed in its freebies at a furious rate, hitting 27 of 30 free-throw attempts to keep the game much closer than it probably should have been. And it's a bit disconcerting that Marquette couldn't put the Hoyas away when Georgetown was forced to run the likes of Bradley Hayes out against Gardner, but with the foul trouble for the Wilsons and Todd Mayo going full Bad Mayo in the second half, it's not altogether surprising either.
So the beat goes on to Villanova, where Marquette has its last regular-season shot to pick up a marquee win. Last night was a game that Marquette had to win to keep its post-season hopes alive, but there's still no point in bubble talk. Yet.
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: We're tempted to give the nod to the Ox for his game-high 26 points, but let's be honest: that's exactly the kind of performance Big Smoove should turn in when the opposition has 3/4 of its frontline saddled with foul trouble. So for the second home game in a row, Jake Thomas takes home the hardware for his gutty performance. (Though I have to ask this: Thomas was wearing a shooting sleeve last night, purportedly because of the injury to his wing. But what the hell does a shooting sleeve that runs from your wrist to your bicep do for a dislocated shoulder?)
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Just as he was on Saturday, John Dawson found himself pressed into duty when Derrick Wilson had to take the bench with foul trouble. Dawson didn't score a point and missed all four of his attempts from the field, but he did manage 3 rebounds and, more importantly, 4 assists in 18 minutes to keep the ship running smoothly.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: We'll split the award between a pair of huge defensive plays in the final minutes of the game: with just under 3 minutes to go, Starks beat Thomas on the baseline and was set for a layup that would've cut MU's lead to one ... until Derrick Wilson dashed from the top of the key and established position outside the charge circle just before Starks took flight, and Starks was called for an offensive foul. Then, with Marquette clinging to a one-point lead with 10 seconds left, Juan Anderson provided excellent help defense when Starks once again attack the paint, forcing a tough shot and grabbing the rebound.
Up Next: Back to back roadies await YOUR Golden Eagles this week, and it's an especially daunting task on Saturday, as Marquette faces conference-leading Villanova, which hasn't lost to a Big East team not named Creighton this season.