This entire Marquette season has been waiting.... and waiting... and waiting for the Golden Eagles to lock up a tippy top win to prove that they belong in the NCAA tournament. They got that win on Saturday afternoon, laying the smack down on #7 Creighton down in Omaha, 102-94. MU is now 13-6 on the year and 4-3 in Big East play, which is good enough for fourth place in the league for the moment.
Well, here’s what we can say about this game: We got exactly the game that you would have expected between two of the country’s most efficient offenses. By that, I mean we got absolutely no goddamn defense, as both teams posted an effective field goal percentage over 56% and scored more than 1.15 points per possession. Thankfully, Marquette had an eFG% of 70% in the game while shooting a ridiculous 12-for-24 on three pointers and a COMPLETELY insane 24-of-36 inside the arc to provide the Golden Eagles with just enough offense to escape Nebraska with their first Big East road win of the season.
Ok, saying “just enough” to escape is probably wrong, as Marquette led by as many as 19 with 7:27 to play. Sure, things could have gotten really squeaky on the MU bench if Marcus Foster had drained a triple with 22 seconds left to play after Haanif Cheatham traveled underneath the Creighton hoop, but hey, he missed and that was that.
You have your pick of guys to high five for their great performance in this game. We should probably start with Katin Reinhardt, though. The grad transfer finished with 21 points, three rebounds, seven (!) assists, and two steals, which is all impressive enough on it’s own. However, Reinhardt may have single handedly won the game for Marquette. Lemme explain: Jajuan Johnson hit a three to put Marquette up 32-24 with 7:44 to go before intermission. However, just under the four minute mark, Foster scored two of his game high 30 points to make it just a one point game. Then: Reinhardt trey, Reinhardt steal and runout layup, Reinhardt layup, Reinhardt trey. A one-man 10-0 run turned it into an 11 point lead and Johnson tacked on to make it a 12-0 run for the Golden Eagles.
Did they still have to play another minute of the first half and all of the second? Yeah, of course, but by himself, Reinhardt provided the offense (and a little bit of defense!) to prop Marquette back up after the Bluejays had crept back into the game.
We also can’t ignore the performance of Luke Fischer. Coming off of a scoreless, one rebound, five foul performance in MU’s meltdown against Butler, the senior center went bananas on Creighton, posting 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and six - COUNT ‘EM, SIX - blocks. You know what’s a good way to convince your opponent that they shouldn’t try attacking the rim a lot like Butler did in the second half of that game? SWAT FIVE SHOTS IN THE FIRST HALF. That’ll get their attention REAL quick. You also have to give credit to Fischer for his efforts containing Creighton freshman phenom Justin Patton. The Omaha native is earning attention as a first round NBA draft pick this coming summer, and Fischer played a major part in holding Patton just just 11 points and four rebounds in 19 foul plagued minutes.
How about some highlights, courtesy of Fox Sports and GoMarquette.com?
Regardless of what happens to Creighton the rest of the season without star point guard Maurice Watson, Jr., who is lost for the season with an ACL tear, this is going to be a major win for the Golden Eagles: High quality opponent and on the road. As of right now, Marquette is 2-4 against the KenPom top 50. Even more importantly, after stealing this win from the Jays, KenPom now sees the Golden Eagles going 11-7 in league play, which should almost assuredly be enough for an NCAA tournament bid. If you want to get really optimistic? Going game by game, KenPom projects Marquette to finish 13-5.
It’s going to take a lot of hard work by Steve Wojciechowski, his staff, and his players. But it’s possible. They get their next chance to improve on their overall profile....
Up Next: .... this coming Tuesday night when Villanova comes to Milwaukee. The Wildcats (19-1, 7-1 Big East) handled Providence earlier on Saturday, so it’s likely that they’ll still be #1 in the Associated Press top 25 when it updates on Monday. MU’s playing with house money now, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to stack a few more chips with that kind of a win.