If I had told you when you woke up on Sunday morning that Brendan Bailey would score 27 points and Sacar Anim would score 21 points, what would you have said the result of Marquette’s game against #5 Maryland in the Orlando Invitational title game?
Marquette by about a million, right?
So, anyway, what happened was the Golden Eagles turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions while Markus Howard missed 11 shots including all six of his long range attempts, and the Terrapins ran away with the game, 84-63.
That’s not what you want to see in a game where you 1) kind of expected a loss anyway and/or 2) were playing with house money after Howard exploded for 91 points in the first two games of the tournament. Losing to the #5 team on a neutral court? Eh, things happen. Getting smacked around with the worst scoring starter to this point of the season exploding to hit 7 of his 12 three-point attempts? That stinks.
The first seven minutes? Good! Howard drained a shot in the lane to knot the game up at 11, and things were fun and good. On the other end of the court, Hakim Hart got a stickback for the Terrapins to kick off a 12-0 run. To a certain extent, the game was over right there, as Anthony Cowan Jr. put Maryland up 23-11. Cowan extended the lead to 16 on an and-1 layup with 3:34 to go, and Cowan (hey, there’s that name again) drained a monster three to make it a 21 point game at the break. Sure, letting the lead balloon by another 9 points is much worse than the original 12-0 run, but that run kind of broke things open.
The good news about the second half is that Marquette played Maryland even in the final 20 minutes, with 42 points for both sides. The bad news about it is that the Golden Eagles made a serious case to get back in the game repeatedly..... and then let themselves back out of it. Eric Ayala put Maryland up 25 as the Terps scored the first four points of the second half, but a triple in transition by Koby McEwen about four minutes later pulled the margin under 20 down to 50-33. After Cowan answered for UMD, Marquette put together another six in a row to make it a 13 point game, 52-39, with 12:54 to go. That’s far from over.
But Maryland got the next nine points of the game to push it back above 20. That first half 12-0 run was bad, but this 9-0 one may have actually been the dagger. Still, Marquette didn’t go away. They answered with eight straight to pull it down to 14, and another 6-0 burst a little while later made it a 65-53 game with 6:14 to go. That’s a 12 point margin with a bunch of basketball left to be played. To be clear, it’s a phenomenal effort to whittle that 25 points down to 12. Everyone involved should be commended on their contributions.
The reverse goes for the final 6:14, though. Maryland outscored Marquette 19-10 over the final stretch of the game to emphatically put it away, and really, it was the 14-5 in the final 4:07 that was the problem. Sacar Anim had pulled MU back within 12 at that point, and yet, somehow, it still ended up being a 21 point loss. One final 8-0 burst from the Terrapins finally shoveled the last bit of dirt onto Marquette and permanently quelled the zombie uprising.
You can point to this and that if you want, but if you didn’t expect to see Marquette beat Maryland before the season, does it really matter what the various pieces of the game actually ended up being?
Up Next: Marquette gets two chances over the next week to shake this ugly bit of business off. First up is Jacksonville on Wednesday back in Fiserv Forum. The Dolphins are 4-5 this season after beating North Carolina A&T on Saturday. After that, it’s a road trip to Kansas State next Saturday night. I feel like we’ll learn a lot about this year’s edition of the Golden Eagles on that trip to Manhattan.