That is the word I would use to describe so many games this season. That's the word that I would use to describe the season as a whole. And so, it's probably fitting that this is the word that best describes the result of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles' opening game of the 2014 Big East Tournament.
Marquette took on a Xavier team that had lost 2 straight and was playing in its first ever Big East Tournament game, in New York City, at Madison Square Garden. They got a masterful, 23 point performance out of Deonte Burton. Todd Mayo came off the bench to score 21. They shot nearly 58% as a team, from the floor. They matched Xavier's 3-pointers, with five. Yet somehow they found a way to lose.
Xavier didn't need to win as much as they needed to not lose this game, in order to feel secure about their chances of receiving an at-large berth to the Big Dance. They got big contributions from Semaj Christon (18 points) and Justin Martin (19 points). The Musketeers also got a boost from the return of center Matt Stainbrook, who had been out since suffering a knee injury last week. The big man wasn't expected back until Saturday at the earliest, but was able to go and provided 8 points, and a fair bit of energy, off the Xavier bench.
Xavier advances to play Creighton tomorrow night.
- "How?" you ask. How exactly does a team manage to shoot 58% and lose? Turnovers, my man. Turnovers. Marquette turned the ball over 15 times in the game. At one point, in the first half, Marquette was shooting 60% from the floor. But thanks to 9 turnovers, they were still trailing.
- And if turnovers aren't enough to squander a great shooting night, sprinkle in a 9 point deficit from the free throw line and that should get it done for you. MU made just 8 free throws, in 14 tries - including 2 gigantic misses by Jamil Wilson in the last minute of the game. Meanwhile, Xavier shot 17-23 - including 11-14 in the last 3:30 of the game.
- Jake Thomas: 36 minutes of run, 1-2 shooting, 3 points, 2 turnovers, one nice defensive play.
- Todd Mayo did his Todd Mayo thing again. He dropped 19 of his 21 points in the second half and once again was the catalyst in Marquette's late surge to almost win.
- Davante Gardner was solid in the first half, but scored just 1 point after the break. He finished with 9 points, on 4-6 shooting, and 4 boards.
- Marquette actually had the ball, down 3, with about 12 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Mayo (who had been the hot hand down the stretch) ended up hoisting a challenged 3-pointer from the corner that didn't go down. Personally, I didn't think it was that horrible of a look. It wasn't ideal (and judging from Buzz's reaction, wasn't what they had discussed in the huddle), but it wasn't a terrible shot either.
- MU has not won a Big East Tournament game since they vanquished Bob Huggins' Mountaineers, and sealed their inclusion in the Big Dance, back in 2011.
- Let's be honest. No one wanted to see us get torched by Creighton again.
- Marquette has played 13 games this season against teams that appear headed to the NCAA Tournament. They have won just 2 of those 13 games.
- Perhaps the most frustrating part of this game, and this season, is that we've become accustomed to Buzz Williams' teams always finding a way to win. But this year, every time an opportunity to grab a big win presented itself, we seemed to find a way to let it get away. Tonight was no different.
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: After coming off the bench for the last 9 games, Deonte Burton parlayed his excellent first half against St. John's into a return to the starting lineup for the Big East Tournament. He responded by scoring Marquette's first 6 points of the game, en route to a career high 23 points. Deonte essentially carried the MU offense for the better part of the game, before mysteriously disappearing over the last 6 minutes. But for this breakout performance, Deonte gets the Crowder.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I do not understand what it is that makes Todd Mayo turn it on when he does. But tonight, I couldn't help but notice something. The one difference between the first half (when Todd was hot garbage) and the second (when he played like a future lottery pick) was the presence of Derrick Wilson, who sat a good chunk of the first half with fouls. So, either Todd has some sort of mental block that doesn't allow him from performing until the pressure ratchets up (totally possible) OR perhaps something in Derrick's game allows Todd to get the ball where he wants it, or something, and helps Todd get going. So for this half cooked theory - and the fact that he turned it over just once, while the rest of the team was kicking the ball all over the place - we give the Fulce to OUR Derrick.
Up Next: For the first time since 2005, Marquette does not exit their conference tourney with the knowledge that they're just waiting to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Instead, the Golden Eagles will be spectators like the rest of us as the brackets are unveiled. After that, they will probably be headed to the NIT. I say probably, because an invite is not a sure bet at this point - when you consider that smaller conference regular season champs (who are assured an NIT spot, if they should falter in their conference tourney) have been falling at a fairly high clip so far this year. Already 9 regular season champs (Davidson, Southern, Boston U, Iona, Belmont, Robert Morris, UWGB, Florida Gulf Coast, and Vermont) have fallen into the NIT bracket. The champions of the WAC, Southland, MEAC, Big West, Big Sky, and Conference USA, are all still alive, but if any of them should get bounced, they would take up another of the 32 possible NIT spots. So it is anything but a done deal, at this point. Does anyone know if the CBI is still a thing?