If you didn’t pay attention or look at the box score, Marquette lost to #2 Kansas, 77-68, on Wednesday night. I’ll give you some time to recover from the shock. It doesn’t do the game justice to boil it down to just that number, but the final margin makes sense. To get a sense of the different turning points in the game, I’ll break it down into 3 segments.
Segment 1: The first half. Marquette won 47-38. A dominating performance driven by great ball movement and taking the ball out of Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike’s hands.
Segment 2: First 9 minutes of the second half. Kansas won 22-0. Oh god why? Self told Devon Dotson to staple himself to Markus Howard and there was no response. Lawson remembered he could play basketball.
Segment 3: The following 10 minutes (until the foulfest started. The game basically ended at 1:05. The margin was still 9 at that point. Really there’s no point for this distinction). Marquette won 19-15. For as bleak and awful as that second segment truly was, Marquette had the ball with 1:30 left to potentially make it a 2 possession game. The hole was just too deep.
I don’t want to rehash everything that happened on Twitter after the game. No one wished cancer on my mom or anything, but I’m not about to link a bunch of tweets and call out what I disagree with. Even if I wanted to, the discussions was still fruitful even if folks disagreed. Before I get into the Three Things, though, I just need to mention that for the majority of the game Marquette looked like the team we think they can be. It excuses the 22-0 less because of that fact, but the good things still happened.
Maybe it was the letdown from the halftime lead that made the loss seem worse than it was, but a 9 point loss to a Final Four contender is Perfectly Fine. I mean, unless you chalked this up as a win before the season started. If that’s the case then you’re a dummy. A big dummy. The biggest of the dummies. Onto the Three Things.
1. Marquette Can Beat A Good Team
I’ll put it this way: The “average margin” of this game was Kansas by 1.9, which equates to about a 4 point final margin on average. By T-Rank’s Game Score stat, Marquette registered an 88, which is the performance of your run of the mill 25th ranked team. If you want a different game as a point of reference, Marquette’s overtime win at Providence last year (the Markus Howard 52 point game) was worth an 89 Game Score. They also won the eFG battle.
“What caused these good numbers?” you may ask. You would be tempted to guess that the offense was the reason behind everything, given the three point barrage in the first half, but nay. Per BartTorvik.com, the defense turned in a 94.9 efficiency rating. That would be good for 38th best in the country if they did that every game.
Let me repeat.
The Marquette defense, the thing that was our biggest concern going into the year, performed legitimately well against one of the 5 best offense in the country. And Kansas played to their strengths. They attempted 48 shots inside the arc, but made 23 of them. Doke and Dedric combined for 21 shot attempts, which was about where my goal was in terms of limiting their opportunities.
The Kansas guards were forced to create chances for themselves and they could not execute. I don’t know why Marcus Garrett was allowed to take 10 shots, but he only made 3 of them.
If you’re looking for a reason to believe that the defense can be better than last year’s squad, remember this game.
2. My God Does Markus Howard Need Help
Sometimes it’s scary how right I am literally all of the time. From my preview of this game:
This is almost verbatim what happened on Wednesday. Bill Self backed his defenders off the three point line in the first half and Marquette made him pay. Self’s adjustment was to put Devon Dotson, the basketball playing version of Twitchy from the 2005 movie Hoodwinked!, on full time Markus Howard duty. That’s when the offense stopped.
Someone needs to step up in the Offensive Creation Department, because Howard can’t carry the team by himself against high major competition. Joseph Chartouny has turned the ball over too much to be the floor general that creates space for open shooters. Sacar Anim has not built on any of the developments he made last year, either. Marquette came into the year with a lot of guard depth, but that depth needs be good to matter. Otherwise we could be on the road to talking about the offense as a problem.
3. A Lot Hinges On Beating Louisville.
The window of this article holding any water is like a day, Almost exactly 36 hours, if we’re being precise. If Marquette loses to Louisville on Friday, none of my reason for hope matters. If they win, then you’re just going to read the Three Things article from that game to confirm your optimism. Really puts me in a weird spot.
Again, you shouldn’t have expected a win against Kansas, but now it’s an official result. The pressure is on this next game to salvage this first batch of games. Showing good tendencies in a game is fine, but it needs to all be put together in a win. If it doesn’t happen against Louisville, then I don’t know where it’ll come from, to be honest.