In the closest contest ever played between the two squads, the #5 ranked Denver Pioneers came away from Hart Park in Wauwatosa with an 18-11 win over #16 Marquette on Saturday afternoon. With the win, Denver finishes 5-0 in the Big East and wins the Big East regular season title. The loss sends Marquette to 3-2 in league play in 2015, which means they'll finish as the #3 seed for the Big East tournament.
The final score shows just a seven goal margin, one better than last year's 17-9 victory by the Pios and way better than 2013's 15-4 decimation, but the game was never really that close. Denver scored on the first three possessions of the game, and I don't mean between the two teams, I mean their first three possessions. The ball never crossed into Marquette's offensive half of the field as DU scored the first three goals of the game. Marquette's first shot of the game came from Kyle Whitlow with nearly five minutes elapsed, and thankfully for the scoreboard, he was able to beat Ryan LaPlante to make it 3-1.
That apparently pissed Denver off. The Pioneers scored the next 10 goals of the game to make it 13-1 with 4:19 left in the first half. When you're a third year program trying to score the biggest win of your history and topple the preseason #1 team in the country, you have to pretty much play perfect lacrosse, and that was very clearly not happening. Goals from Conor Gately, Jordan Greenfield, and Whitlow made it 13-4 at the half to give things a semblance of order, but it was just putting a nice centerpiece on a dining room table that's already collapsed because you forgot to actually put the screws in to connect the legs.
The Golden Eagles outscored Denver 3-2 in the third and 4-3 in fourth to drag that final margin to just seven goals, but it took three goals in the final 3:22 to get it there, too. I think it's safe to say that Denver had decided to kick back at that point, as head coach Bill Tierney went to his backup goalie with 3:15 left. Then again, Marquette had gone to their backup at halftime, so make whatever you want to out of that.
The game was largely decided at the faceoff X, as Denver's Trevor Baptiste went 18 for 26 against Marquette. Good news: That means he was worse than his season average of 72%! Bad news: that's still 69.2%. In other words: When Denver scored, there was a 70% chance that they were getting the ball back right away. That'll put a damper on your afternoon real quick.
Up Next: It's time for the Big East tournament. With a 3-5 record in their last eight games, winning the whole shebang out at Villanova will be MU's only hope of getting to the NCAA tournament. It's going to be absurdly difficult to pull that off, as it will likely require wins against the two teams that beat Marquette in the regular season. MU gets #2 seed Georgetown in the semifinals, with their match starting at 4:30pm Central time on Thursday, April 30th.