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2017 NCAA Tournament: South Carolina Runs Away From Marquette

Would you have preferred the buzzer beater that the first round didn’t provide?

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Marquette v South Carolina Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Marquette allowed South Carolina to go totally haywire over the final 25 minutes, and the #10 seeded Golden Eagles fell to the #7 seeded Gamecocks, 93-73, in the first round of the 2017 NCAA tournament. Marquette finishes the third season of the Steve Wojciechowski era with a record of 19-13.

It seemed like we were going to get a vintage Marquette shooting performance as the Golden Eagles came blazing out of the gate. They led 8-0 after less than three minutes, and 26-16 after Katin Reinhardt buried a three with 9:20 left in the first half. South Carolina showed some signs of life, but back to back splashes from Sam Hauser gave Marquette a 34-26 lead with 5:21 left in the game.

That was pretty much the end of the competitive portion of our program.

The Gamecocks outscored MU 13-6 through the end of the first half, and scored the first two buckets of the second half to take their first lead of the game. The two teams traded the lead back and forth for a bit, and then South Carolina went on a 13-0 run capped off by a Justin McKie bucket that gave them a 57-49 lead.

Sure, there was 14 minutes and change left to go. Sure, Jajuan Johnson ended the run with an and-1 layup. Sure, an Andrew Rowsey Special (drawing a foul on a pumpfaked three-pointer) pulled Marquette within one with 10:57 left. Does any of that matter when you lose by 20? Does any of that matter when you commit 12 turnovers in the second half alone after averaging 12 per game all season?

It really doesn’t.

Marquette got smashed down the stretch, and let the score get away from them even worse than they probably should have let it get. Here’s the facts of the matter: they let a South Carolina team with a season long effective field goal percentage of 46.7% post a number of 58.8% on Friday night, and that’s after “holding” them to 54.8% in the first half. Essentially, the second half was a repeat of a number that we’ve heard too many times from Marquette’s defense this season. Their crowning achievement of the season - the 17 point rally against #1 Villanova - was an aberration, not the norm.

Jajuan Johnson finished with a team high 16 points in his final game in a Marquette uniform, adding six rebounds and three assists. His first basket of the game, a three-pointer, something that seemed like a fever dream two years ago, made him Marquette’s 47th 1,000 point scorer. Luke Fischer wrapped up his two and a half years in blue and gold with eight points, six rebounds, and one assist. Katin Reinhardt chipped in seven points and two assists to finish up his grad transfer season for the Golden Eagles.

Other guys did stuff, but I wanted to make sure I focused on those guys, especially Jajuan and Luke. They were both here when Buzz Williams left, and they could have left as well. No one would have blamed them. They decided to stay, they stuck it out through three years of no postseason basketball, and they were rewarded with an NCAA tournament game as the bow on their collegiate careers. THANK YOU SO MUCH to those guys for all of their hard work and dedication to keep improving, to keep coming back from setbacks, to keep fighting for Marquette fans everyone. THANK YOU as well to Reinhardt for everything he’s done and worked for this season. I wish it could have ended a little bit better for him, and it broke my heart to see him breaking down on the bench at the end of the game.

Up Next: The offseason, which is evil and should be destroyed.