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What Happened During The Villanova Drought?

We look at what happened in that stretch, and ask if it is anything to be worried about for the future.

Villanova v Marquette Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With 19:24 left in the second half on Saturday against #10 Villanova, Markus Howard hit a three to give Marquette a 49-29 lead. That was the high water mark for MU’s lead in the second half, largely because Marquette would struggle for the next 11-plus minutes.

With 7:59 left in the game, VU’s Cole Swider scored, making it a 51-43 ballgame. Marquette’s 20 point lead had dwindled to just eight points, and the Golden Eagles had been outscored 14-2 since that Howard triple to open up the scoring in the half.

What the hell? TWO points in 11:24 of game clock time? For a team that had thrown up FORTY-SIX in the first 20 minutes of the game?

This leads to an obvious question: What the holy hell happened? Perhaps more importantly, how was this not worse than it actually was?

So let’s take a look, shall we? What follows is first Marquette’s possessions in that 11-plus minute run, and then we’ll take a look at Villanova’s possessions. This is merely pulled from the play-by-play from GoMarquette.com, not from tape review. We’re not taking shot quality into account, merely the cold reduced facts of what happened.

  • 18:43 - Howard misses in the paint
  • 18:06 - Howard offensive foul
  • 17:37 - Howard misses a three, offensive rebound Theo John, missed putback
  • 17:00 - Koby McEwen misses in the paint
  • 16:38 - Brendan Bailey turnover, stolen by Justin Moore
  • 16:38 - Sacar Anim offensive foul (was this where Villanova committed a five second violation, thus no time went off the clock or something? There’s no Villanova possession in between and no time elapsed.)
  • 16:01 - Greg Elliott misses a three
  • 15:25 - McEwen scores in the paint (lead back to 15)
  • 14:57 - Bailey misses a three
  • 14:00 - McEwen misses a three
  • 13:30 - McEwen turnover
  • 12:34 - Howard misses a three
  • 11:38 - Bailey misses a three
  • 11:23 - McEwen misses in the paint
  • 10:49 - Howard misses in the paint
  • 9:59 - Ed Morrow misses in the paint
  • 9:28 - Howard misses in the paint
  • 8:17 - Elliott misses in the paint

And that’s it, Swider scores on the other end after that Elliott miss to make it an eight point game.

For me, this is fine. Not good, obviously, but given Marquette’s propensity for turnovers this season, having just four turnovers in 11-plus minutes of very not good basketball is fine. That shakes out to a little less than 16 a game, and that’s mostly in line with what MU has been doing this season. Again, not good, but it’s right in line with expectations.

Ultimately, Marquette’s biggest problem on offense was guys just missed shots. Five different players missed a shot in that stretch, which means that the ball wasn’t getting stuck with anyone in particular. Eight possessions ended with a missed shot in the paint, and given how often Marquette was getting to the line in this game, focusing the offense on shots that are most likely to create free throws is a fantastic decision. In fact, MU’s last five possessions were all missed shots in the paint, which means that it seems like there was a dedicated emphasis on trying to create points to shake out of the drought either by high percentage shots or by getting to the line.

Yeah, a bunch of shots didn’t go down, and yeah, Marquette didn’t really get any offensive rebounds in that run either. You can have a problem with that, but the good news is that MU wasn’t wildly out of control and throwing the game away.

I think part of this has to do with what the Golden Eagles were doing on the defensive end. Yes, it was a 14-2 run, so obviously they weren’t getting a lot of stops, but it was also across 11-plus minutes, which is a looooooooong time to take to score 14 points.

  • 18:53 - Jermaine Samuels misses a three
  • 18:28 - Samuels scores in the paint, misses the and-1 (18 point lead)
  • 17:45 - Saddiq Bey hits a three (15 point lead)
  • 17:21 - Justin Moore misses a three, McEwen foul on the rebound, Samuels misses in the paint
  • 16:53 - Moore hits a three (13 point lead)
  • MYSTERY VILLANOVA POSSESSION (as discussed above)
  • 16:26 - Collin Gillespie misses in the paint
  • 15:54 - Swider misses a three, offensive rebound by Bey, John blocks a putback
  • 15:04 - Bryan Antoine gets a dunk blocked by John
  • 14:46 - Antonine misses a three, Swider rebounds, Gillespie hits a three (12 point lead)
  • 13:23 - Antoine misses a three, offensive rebound by Bey, Moore commits an offensive foul
  • 12:52 - Moore misses a three
  • 12:08 - Swider misses a three, offensive rebound by Bey, putback dunk (10 point lead)
  • 11:31 - Justin Moore gets it stolen by Bailey
  • 11:02 - Jeremiah Robinson-Earl misses a three
  • 10:34 - Swider misses a three, offensive rebound by JRE, who gets it stolen by McEwen
  • 9:39 - Bey misses
  • 9:02 - Brandon Slater misses in the paint
  • 7:59 - Swider scores (8 point lead)

I’m counting four possessions that ended as a result of emphatic Marquette plays: Two blocks by Theo John, a steal by Brendan Bailey, and a steal by Koby McEwen. John’s blocks were on the opposite sides of Marquette’s lone basket in the run, and both steals came after that. Marquette wasn’t just getting stops when they got stops, they were getting stops that energized the team. It’s easier to fight through droughts like this when you’re stuffing shots and getting steals. You gain confidence in your ability to keep getting stops, if not the fancy ones like blocks and steals, but just the simple ones like forcing bad shots and getting a rebound.

Sure, letting a 20 point lead dwindle down to single digits isn’t fun, and no one wants to do that. However, this seems to be the best way to go about it: Guys missing high percentage shots, and making enough big plays on the other end to keep everyone’s spirits up about how it’s going.

Is there anything to be worried about long term for Marquette here? No, I don’t think so. It was a game against a top 10 team and a top 10 team wasn’t going to just sit around and let themselves get blown out, no matter how the first half went. Let’s just chalk it up to the game normalizing itself and just cross our fingers that we never have to see just two points scored in 11-plus minutes ever again.