There were 8 and a half minutes left in the second half when Theo John got the ball on the low block. I audibly groaned. No offense to John, but that’s not exactly the ideal shot as the game was winding down. He threw a shoulder into Ethan Happ’s chest a couple times, and promptly sent a laser of a jump hook into the bucket. As the Golden Eagles made their way back down the court, I could feel the energy in the Fiserv Forum coursing through my TV. The camera caught John smiling a little bit, pleased with himself for getting the fans on their feet after a dull few minutes. It brought Marquette within 1. And I thought to myself, “you know what Theo, we’re gonna be alright.”
And we were.
YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles scratched and clawed their way to a 74-69 victory over the #12 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. Markus Howard led all scorers on the winning team with 27, though it was an inefficient 27 (7-of-29 from the field, 1-of-7 from 3. 12-of-15 at the stripe, thank heavens). Sam Hauser and Joey Hauser had 13 and 15 respectively, and they were significantly more efficient, which makes me wonder why the Golden Eagles didn’t play through them more when Howard clearly didn’t have his A-game today.
The first half started really sloppy. Wisconsin turned it over five times in the first few minutes, but Marquette could barely capitalize. That proved costly, as they couldn’t create enough separation and when Wisconsin stopped coughing it up, they started hitting their shots (some of them very unlikely makes). Marquette kept up but having a bigger cushion from the jump would’ve been nice. A lot of Marquette’s squandered opportunities came from Markus Howard Hero Ball, which is a bottom-five type of ball. We all know this, but Marquette’s offense is most effective is when the ball is zipping around the court, everyone’s involved and open looks are plentiful and fruitful. It just didn’t look that smooth in the first half. Part of that was Wisconsin’s excellent on-ball defense and forcing the Golden Eagles to manufacture a rough look late in the shot clock, sure. But it also felt a bit like Howard wanted to do this himself. There were some nice contributions from the Hausers (and almost no one else offensively), but it didn’t seem sustainable for the next 20 minutes of game time.
Defensively, the boys looked alright. Ethan Happ in the paint is a tough task for Marquette’s big men, and that’s where most of Wisconsin’s first half success came. Marquette didn’t do a great job on the rest of the Badgers, but it wasn’t awful either. Some guys made some shots (namely Aleem Ford and Nate Reuvers), but the other seven players that touched the floor for UW did nothing to make me think Marquette didn’t stand a chance. In fact, the teams went toe to toe in the last few minutes of the first, with Wisconsin taking a 33-32 lead into the locker room.
The second half was immensely frustrating for both sides. Wisconsin went on a few different runs (led mostly by Ethan Happ) but also had some stretches where they just couldn’t score. Marquette, alternatively, always had an answer for a run, yet they couldn’t take the lead when they had the opportunities. Once Happ started going to work, my roommate’s dog came and rested her head on my lap, as if to say “all will be OK in the end,” but really to say “you gave me peanut butter earlier and I want some more.” The whole half also took forever because there were so many fouls. So really, just an immensely un-fun half of basketball. What didn’t help is the un-funness of the second half was the same un-funness of the first half. Marquette tightened up on D when it mattered, thankfully, but the offense was still pretty garish, save for a few timely shots and huge cajones from the Hauser brothers. Imagine recruiting Sam and Joey and not landing them. Couldn’t be us! Aside from their contributions, a mostly gross half.
Tense, though? Yes, tense. I had a stress ball.
Things picked up a bit with some timely shots from either side, and after an Ed Morrow block of a Happ shot led to a Wisconsin turnover, Marquette had the ball with 30 seconds left and a tie ballgame. Great, right? It would’ve been if the Golden Eagles had run the play correctly. I wasn’t in the huddle so I wasn’t entirely aware of what it was, but afterwards, a few players were having a heated discussion. One can assume somebody screwed up. Anyway, Markus Howard missed a runner in a crowded lane, and we went to OT.
Overtime, like the rest of the game, was slow, foul-heavy and grating. Joey Hauser and Ed Morrow get gold stars because they basically saved Marquette’s ass. Morrow, at one point, missed a put-back dunk, got his own offensive rebound, wrestled his way through four Badger defenders, and made a layup that hung on the rim for what seemed like hours. I graduated college and got my first promotion by the time it dropped. Marquette eventually clung to a 4-point lead with under a minute, and then that minute took years to get through. Timeouts, fouls, replays, oh my! Eventually, after Marquette missed I believe six free throws in a row, Morrow made two to ice it. We can all breathe again.
Welp, that’s it! Marquette wins! Second win against whatever team is ranked 12th in the country! And they didn’t even look that great! Very fun! I am dead! We are all dead! OK!
Capping off the win with a rousing “Jump Around” and blue and gold confetti was a cherry on top.
Next up, Marquette welcomes North Dakota in like a week and a half, so you’ll have some time to relish this victory.
Player of the game: Greg Elliott wore a bow tie. Therefore, Greg Elliott is the player of the game.