Less than three minutes into the game, Bryan Badolato recorded his 20th goal of the season, and Marquette led the number 3 team in the country 2-1. Three straight from the Denver Pioneers made it 4-2, and a Kyle Whitlow marker made it 4-3 after 15 minutes.
The writing was on the wall, though. Denver had outshot Marquette 10-4 in that opening stanza, and that wasn't going to change any time soon. Denver and Marquette traded goals in the first few minutes of the second quarter, and a 5-4 game looked awfully nice for Marquette with 12:38 left in the period.
From there, Marquette wouldn't record their next goal until the fourth quarter when the Pioneers let up the pressure. Meanwhile, Denver scored nine unanswered goals while outshooting the Golden Eagles 22-10, and it was only that close because the Pios took it easy in the third, only recording eight shots. Denver's Jack Bobzien turned himself into Marquette's worst nightmare over that 27+ minute stretch, scoring three of his game high four goals in the game and assisting on another one.
Marquette managed to outscore Denver 5-3 in the fourth quarter to make the final score look nicer than the game actually was, and even then, it was mostly Marquette's top attackers - Badolato, Whitlow, and Conor Gately - scoring against the depths of Denver's bench. The Pioneers got goals from two guys getting their first tally of the year and the third came from a guy getting his second of the season.
The loss in the Rocky Mountains combined with Villanova losing in overtime to Providence makes Marquette the #2 seed in the Big East tournament. They'll face off with those Wildcats in one of the semifinal games this coming Thursday, while the other semifinal will feature regular season champion Denver taking on 4 seed Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights played their way into the tournament by defeating Georgetown 12-8 on Saturday.
STAT WATCH: A 7-8 outing in the fourth quarter turned the face off battle from a slaughter to a manageable disaster. Marquette went 11-28 at the X on the day, with Paul Riportella's 5-11 leading the way. That's a 39.3% success rate for the day, lower than the 42.9% from last season. Three face off violations by the Pioneers in the fourth quarter sure did end up helping that look nicer than it did for the first 45 minutes.
On the turnover front, Marquette definitely did not beat themselves in Denver. The Golden Eagles committed just nine turnovers in the game, even lower than their season average of 12.4 per game coming into the game. Of those nine, five were not caused by Denver's defense, giving Marquette a rate of 20.8 unforced turnovers per 100 offensive chances in the game. Last season, Marquette had a season long run of 27.5 unforced turnovers per 100 opportunities, so credit must be paid to Marquette's attention to possession against one of the five best teams in the country.
Up Next: Since Villanova is hosting the Big East tournament, that means that the Big East has given the Wildcats the second of the two semifinals in order to draw the biggest crowd possible for both games. Marquette and Villanova are scheduled to face off at 6pm Central on Thursday evening, or approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Denver-Rutgers game. Both games will be available for live free video streaming through BigEast.com/allaccess.