After losing Henry Ellenson to an ankle injury in this week's win over Georgetown, the road looked awfully long for YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles in the quest to hit the .500 mark in BIG EAST play. That proved to be the case today, as the return of the hobbled superfrosh wasn't nearly enough, and Marquette found itself on the short end of a 95-74 pantsing by the Bulldogs of Butler.
Marquette went with the same starters it deployed on Tuesday, but the results were much worse. Back to back turnovers from Luke Fischer and Haanif Cheatham put MU in a quick 6-2 hole, and then a 14-2 haymaker from the Bulldogs (fueled by 7 points from Austin Etherington) had YOUR Golden Eagles on the ropes, down 20-6. But Jajuan Johnson got Marquette off the mat with a 3-pointer and a dunk, and two free throws from Traci Carter got the margin down to 3, but then the whistles took over, and that was about that.
As we said on Twitter, Marquette wasn't just on the wrong end of a bunch of 50-50 calls in the first half, or even 95-5 calls -- these were 100-0 calls, and the officials got almost every one of them wrong. From a block on Duane Wilson that it took the refs almost 10 seconds to call, to an absurd charge on Sandy Cohen III to had Coach Wojo spinning like a top in disbelief, to an even-absurder block on Wally Ellenson, when he actually opened a storefront and started selling lemonade before the Butler player barreled over him, the officiating was a joke. And, frankly, I'm not sure if it's ever going to change, because for about the tenth year in a row, the officiating was bad to start the year and has only gotten worse. You can talk about rule changes and points of emphasis and whatever else, but, fundamentally, nothing is ever going to improve when you have incompetent officials at the whistle. And to call these officials "incompetent" is probably a compliment.
Buoyed by the lopsided officiating, Butler answered Marquette's 9-0 run with a 22-10 spurt of its own, as the always-annoying Kellen Dunham got loose for a 3 that stretched the Bulldog lead to 15. More bombs from Kelan Martin and Etherington ballooned the margin to 21, and all told, Marquette was lucky not to be down 30 at the half. Still, at the break, MU was on the wrong end of a 53-34 score.
Things momentarily perked up in the second half, as Henry Ellenson continued his torrid play against Butler by scoring 14 of MU's first 16 points of the half. But despite Ellenson's efforts, Marquette couldn't get closer than 15 the rest of the way. A 7-0 run in the span of a minute with 8 minutes left put the Bulldogs up 28 and moved this one officially into laugher territory, and the only remaining question was whether Ellenson would eclipse his career-high point total of 32 (from January's win over Butler). He didn't, ending the afternoon with 29 points (10-17 from the field) and 8 rebounds. The only other Golden Eagles in double figures were Cohen (11) and Wilson (10), while Cheatham had an especially forgettable day with no points on 0-6 shooting.
With the loss, Marquette ends the regular season at 19-12 and 8-10 in the BIG EAST, and drops to seventh place in the conference standings. That means a Wednesday date with St. John's in the opening round of this year's BIG EAST Tournament.