In front of a packed house crowd at the Al McGuire Center on a sunny March afternoon, Marquette added a little more sunshine to their season. The Golden Eagles burst out to a 25 point lead and withstood a lot of pressure defense from Oregon before walking away with a 101-92 victory in the second round of the 2018 NIT. MU now advances to a Tuesday quarterfinal game against Penn State which will be back at the McGuire Center.
Andrew Rowsey was the star for Marquette, exploding for 16 points in the first quarter as the Golden Eagles staked themselves to a 30-19 lead after 10 minutes. Just about everything was going right for Marquette in the first half as Sam Hauser splashed a three to close out the first half and put MU up 20 at the break.
Things evened out in the third quarter, as MU never led by more than 23, and never less than 19. However, that was the quarter that set the stage for what passed for dramatics in the final 10 minutes. See, after whistling just 21 personal fouls total (14 on Marquette) in the first half, something went totally sideways in the third quarter. I’m not saying the refs changed how they were calling the game, but it’s either that or the players completely forgot how they were calling it or how to play basketball. One of the three. Anywho, the point is that we were subjected to SIXTEEN personal fouls in the third quarter alone.
That’s how things got more interesting than they needed to in the fourth quarter. See, what happened was Sacar Anim gave Marquette a 25 point lead with a free throw at the 8:06 mark. A jumper from Rowsey at 7:27 pushed the margin back to 25. That’s when the fouls from the third quarter started to take their toll, as Anim, then Markus Howard, then Matt Heldt all fouled out of the game. Howard and Anim both departed back to back with Marquette up 17, with Howard leaving later at the 4:17 mark. It’s not bad for a lead to drop by eight points in four minutes, at least one that big, so that’s fine. When Heldt left at the 1:15 mark, the lead was 13, and Payton Pritchard’s free throws after the foul made it just 11.
THAT is bad.
Oregon’s full court pressure defense took it’s toll on the Golden Eagles in the whole of the second half, as they started fouling after lousy plays taking care of the ball. The fouls stacked up, guys started going out, the pressure intensified, things got prrrrrrreeeeettttttty tight.
But Greg Elliott scored as MU broke the press after the free throws by Pritchard, and 12 seconds later, a pair of free throws by the freshman from Detroit made it a 15 point game with under a minute to go. Time to breath easy. A couple of free throws by the Ducks and an uncontested dunk right before the horn makes this one look an awful lot closer than it actually was.
As mentioned, Rowsey was the star, finishing with 29 points and leaving him just two points short of a tie with Tony Smith for the second best scoring season by a Marquette senior. He also dished nine assists and worked the crowd into a frenzy repeatedly during stoppages. Anim had a neat little game, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds, while Heldt and Jamal Cain had matching outings of seven points and five rebounds. Oregon was led by 25 points from MiKyle McIntosh, but he needed to shoot 15-18 from the line to balance out his 5-12 shooting to get there.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and ESPN?
Up Next: Marquette will host Penn State for the quarterfinals, with a trip to New York and Madison Square Garden for the semifinals on the line. That game will be on Tuesday night, although we don’t quite know the game time yet. The Nittany Lions are 23-13 on the season after beating Notre Dame in South Bend in their second round game.