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Sub-Optimal: St. John’s 86, Marquette 72

How do you even talk about a loss in a CAN NOT LOSE game?? Where do you start?

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Faced with a road game against one of the two sub-100 RPI teams in the Big East after following up the upset of #1 Villanova with a home loss, Marquette was in a position of needing to pick up a win to level things out on Wednesday night.

They didn’t get it.

St. John’s out-everything’d Marquette on their way to an 86-72 victory over the Golden Eagles that wasn’t even really as close as the final score showed. Marquette drops to 14-8 on the season and 5-5 in Big East play after finishing what we thought was a rough first eight games with a record of 5-3.

Things got off on the right foot with Marquette taking a 23-17 lead after nine minute and change on a triple from Andrew Rowsey. When St. John’s answered with a 7-0 run over the next four minutes, that’s when the cracks in the foundation started to appear. The Golden Eagles would gather themselves and Matt Heldt fed Sam Hauser for a second chance trey to snap a 30-all tie, and for a moment, things looked okay with 3:29 left in the half.

And then St. John’s closed the half on a 15-4 run, including seven straight to close the half fueled by two of Marquette’s 17 turnovers in the game. The Johnnies got one each from Markus Howard and Haanif Cheatham, who had six and five of the turnovers all by themselves.

45-37 at the break turned into just 55-51 when Rowsey splashed another of his four made three-pointers on the night at the 16 minute mark exactly. Over the next four minutes, the Red Storm went on a 13-0 run, and that was pretty much that. Ok, yeah, a pair of freebies from Cheatham made it a seven point game with 8:45 to play, and a Rowsey three with 3:06 to play made it an eight point game and not entirely improbable that a team could pull off the stunning comeback.

There’s a team that could do that. This team can’t. Maybe not at all, maybe just not on this night. Marquette didn’t score again til Rowsey threw in two free throws with 32 seconds left. Turnover by Rowsey, missed three by Katin Reinhardt, missed three by Duane Wilson. The last two really didn’t matter because the Johnnies were tacking onto their lead at that point, but that’s what happened.

Had you told me before the season started that Marquette was going to be 5-5 at this point of the season, I would have been pretty pleased. 3-5 in the first eight games seemed like a best case scenario, and I didn’t even really believe that they could split with Seton Hall. 5-5 was a pretty solid outlook for the first 10 games, and yet, because of where the Ws actually fell, 5-5 feels like a massive disappointment.

You can be sure that head coach Steve Wojciechowski feels that way as well. On his radio show with Steve “The Homer” True last Thursday, in between the Villanova win and the Providence loss, he relayed something that he learned while an assistant at Duke. Wojo explained he’d be an assistant on a number of Blue Devils teams that were ranked #1 and that quite often, teams that shock a top team like Marquette did with Villanova go into a two or three game tailspin immediately afterwards because the team doesn’t know how to handle success.

So what’s worse: the losses themselves, Wojo being acutely aware that a tailspin was possible, even likely, and he and his staff didn’t adequately prepare the players for said letdown, or that the players didn’t adequately take that message to heart? Pick one, because one of the three has to be the worst part of this.

Up Next: I’m going to say something that’s going to make you feel some kind of way in the pit of your stomach. Ready? Marquette visits DePaul on Saturday. The Golden Eagles have suffered an awful loss to DePaul in each of Wojo’s first two seasons, and MU already beat DePaul by 25 back on January 14th. I’m not saying anything is or is not going to happen, but if you’re not excited about this weekend’s game, well, you’re not the only one.