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Oh, Goddammit: #13 Butler 88, Marquette 80

Yet another lead goes into the drink as the Golden Eagles collapse in the second half.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Butler Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

A 16 point halftime lead and an 18 point lead early in the second half meant absolutely nothing as the Marquette Golden Eagles lost to the #13 Butler Bulldogs on Monday afternoon. The Bulldogs scored 63 points in the second half, and finished the game on a 59-34 run to grab the victory away from Marquette and send the Golden Eagles to a 3-3 record in Big East action.

It’s the third time this season that Marquette has held a halftime lead and then completely melted down in the second half. They did it against Pittsburgh (up 44-33), against Wisconsin (up 40-35) and now here, against Butler. The loss at Seton Hall doesn’t qualify under this heading because the Pirates were actually winning by one at the half, but of course there is the fact that Marquette was up 10 with about 11 minutes left in the first half.

How did the Bulldogs climb back in the game? Weirdly enough, they did it by following a game plan I suggested for Marquette in our preview for this game: taking it to the rim over and over. The Bulldogs shot just five three-pointers after halftime, and while they made four of those attempts, the majority of their damage was done by driving into the lane with little to no resistance from Marquette. The Bulldogs scored 24 of their second half points in the paint, and they tacked on to that total by making 21 of their 26 free throws in the second half as well.

Perhaps the oddest part about the ability of Butler to fly into the lane at will is how head coach Steve Wojciechowski dealt with Luke Fischer in the game. Fischer committed four of his five personal fouls on the day in the second half, recording his third and fourth within a minute of each other. The fourth came with 9:16 remaining and Marquette leading by one after Andrew Chrabascz made the corresponding free throws. Fischer was lifted from the game, obviously, but it was Haanif Cheatham that replaced him in the lineup. Sophomore back up center Matt Heldt played just two minutes in the second half after putting together five really nice looking minutes in the first half. Heldt finished the game with zero personal fouls, and you have to wonder if Butler’s gameplan of rolling into the lane could have been altered by the Neenah native planting a Bulldog or two with a solid foul. Instead, he sat on the bench and Wojo ended up referring to Fischer’s bad play in this game (0-1 from the field, 1 rebound, 5 fouls) as a mystery.

Markus Howard had a career high 26 points in the game, so that’s something. Sadly, the freshman had 16 of those in the first half and missed both of his three point attempts in the second half. Kelan Martin led a five-pack of Bulldogs in double digits with 22 points.

Up Next: Things do not get better for the Golden Eagles. They have to visit #7 Creighton on Saturday with the Bluejays coming off a road win against #22 Xavier. It seems unlikely that star point guard Maurice Watson, Jr., will play for Creighton after he left Monday afternoon’s game with a non-contact knee injury.