Behind 28 points from Markus Howard, YOUR #11 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles beat back an upset attempt from the Butler Bulldogs and won on Wednesday night, 79-69. With the win, Marquette is now 22-4 on the year and 11-2 in the Big East. Oh, and Villanova got cracked in the face by Georgetown on Wednesday, so the Wildcats are now 11-3 and MU is now alone in first place in the league.
It almost wasn’t.
Most of the first half was your standard issues back-and-forth basketball game where no one got a particular advantage in either direction. Part of this was Marquette’s really bad shooting in the first 20 minutes (40% from the field, 20% from behind the arc) and part of this was Butler attempting to boot the ball around Fiserv Forum. However, a triple from Paul Jorgensen kicked the Bulldog advantage up to eight points, and the restlessness started to set in amongst the Marquette faithful. The lead looked like it was going to stay there for a while, but a dunk from Theo John (this happened a lot in this game, and it was very cool every time) followed by a Markus Howard triple on the next possession busted the lead back down to just three.
We should stop here and point out that Joey Brunk’s forearm shiver on John while that Howard ball was in the air was complete tomfoolery and wildly uncalled for. Then again, based on the tomfoolery that happened at the end of the game, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. At least the referees did see it (Brian O’Connell did a good thing?), even if they ruled it as a common foul and did not eject Brunk for overtly physical violence.
Another dunk from John sent everyone into the locker room with Marquette trailing, 30-29.
And then Butler scored the first seven points of the second half in less than 90 seconds. Back to an eight point game. It’s not what you want.
MU head coach Steve Wojciechowski did the obvious thing and called timeout to figuratively slap his team upside the head and (presumably) shout “WHAT DID WE JUST TALK ABOUT AT HALFTIME??” at his players. This worked incredibly well. Marquette promptly went on an 8-0 run to tie the game with John snagging three of the points. The two sides traded the lead back and forth for a bit, and then it was time for an 11-0 run by the Golden Eagles featuring — yes, that’s right — four points from John. Boom, 10 point lead, 54-44, 8:36 to go.
An and-1 three-pointer from Howard jacked the lead to 11, and a long range bomb from Sacar Anim from right in front of the Marquette bench pushed it to 13 with 3:53 to go. Follow that up a little later with a three-pointer from Howard making Butler pay for letting Sam Hauser rebound his own miss, and it was 70-55, and just over two minutes left.
The triple from Howard was absolutely the dagger in this game, but Butler head coach LaVall Jordan apparently decided to get cutesy from there inwards. The Bulldogs began pressing and trapping, as well as committing five fouls over the final two minutes of the game. I mean, y’know, hooray for cutting the lead to eight with 33 seconds left. It almost mattered. My guess is that Jordan, as a head coach of team that’s starting to fall out of the NCAA tournament bubble discussion, was attempting to manipulate the scoring margin aspect of the NET rankings. See, in terms of the scoring margin component of the NET, if you lose by 10 or if you lose by 40, it’s all the same. So, in theory, there are some marginal gains to be made by losing by nine instead of losing by 15.
Bad news for LaVall Jordan, as Brendan Bailey’s freebies with 32 seconds to go made it a 10 point game and Paul Jorgensen missed his ensuing shot. MU wins by 10, and Butler wasted everyone’s time while failing to affect the NET. Fun!
Marquette ended up shooting 59% in the second half, powered by a 7-for-11 performance from long range. Yeah, that’ll work out much nicer than whatever was going on in the first half.
As mentioned, Howard finished with a game high 28 points. He got there on 9-for-20 shooting, but knocked down six of his 13 three-point attempts for a tidy 60% effective field goal percentage on the day. John ended up with a double-double on 15 points and 11 rebounds. He added an assist and three blocks while playing a robust 32 minutes. Sam Hauser started and played 34 minutes after leaving last week’s DePaul game after getting poked in the high pretty badly. He shot 4-of-10 from the field and 1-of-3 from downtown, both of which are fine. He added five rebounds and four assists, not to mention a block that actually probably should have been credited to John.
How about some highlights, courtesy of CBS Sports Network and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Marquette travels out east to visit Providence on Saturday. The Friars (15-12, 5-9 Big East) are coming off a hilarious 78-59 victory over St. John’s at the Dunk on Wednesday night. I mean, do you have any other words to describe LJ Figueroa leading St. John’s in scoring with 16 points on 7-for-19 shooting? Shamorie Ponds essentially abdicated his claim to Big East Player of the Year with a four point outing on 2-of-9 shooting to help tilt the game in favor of the Friars.