Ever heard the cliche about how one play does not determine the outcome of a game?
See, it’s not any one particular play that cost Marquette the game. In fact, it wasn’t even the fact that the Golden Eagles shot 8-for-31 (25.8%) from the field in the second half, although that absolutely did not help.
No, for me — and you’re more than welcome to disagree with me in the comments section — the game was lost in two stretches in the first half. First, it was Oklahoma State ripping off 15 straight points to turn a 19-7 Marquette lead with 12:27 to go into a 22-19 OSU advantage with 8:24 to go. When you give up 15 straight and end up losing by eight, I feel like we’ve identified what may have been the major problem in the game.
However, I don’t even think that was the very crucial stretch. With 6:12 left in the first half and OSU leading 28-26, Cade Cunningham picked up his second foul. That sent the visitors’ best player to the bench for the remainder of the half. Theo John scored on Marquette’s very next possession to tie the game up. 5:44 of no Cunningham on the floor. a perfect time for the Golden Eagles to flex their muscles, reassert control of the game, and head into the locker room with a notable advantage.
It was 35-32 at the break. Yes, Marquette led. No, it was not particularly good news that they only gained five points on the Cowboys with Cunningham on the bench, and even worse that they only gained three since that John bucket.
I guess the good news is that I missed all of that because Hulu+Live TV’s FS1 feed gave out for a while there. With no other route to watch the game available to me, my wife and daughter turned on the Jane The Virgin episode that they had been watching before the game started. I got to watch the back half of Episode 4 of Season 2, and let me just say that the only part that made coherent sense is when Jane went to a night club for her friend’s 25th birthday, got blitzed, and did a whole choreographed dance to Nelly’s Hot In Herre.
(Aside: Let’s presume that Jane is also 25, just like her friend. This episode aired on November 2, 2015. This would mean that Jane was born, roughly, in 1990. That would make her and her friend 12 when the song made its debut. You know what, this whole thing actually checks out now that I do the math. Let’s go back to the game.)
Inexplicably, Marquette was still leading for the first three minutes of the second half, but a — surprise — layup from Cunningham put Oklahoma State back out in front. Koby McEwen would tie the game at 39 with a split pair of free throws with 14:48 to go, but that’s as close as Marquette would get to leading the rest of the way.
That’s when that 8-for-31 thing started kicking in, and the Cowboys outscored Marquette 31-23 the rest of the way to head back to Stillwater with the win.
If you want to say it wasn’t the 15-0 run and it wasn’t the failure to capitalize on Cunningham being out of the game and it wasn’t the dreadful shooting in the second half, then you have to admit that Marquette absolute shot themselves in the foot with turnovers all game long. At halftime, MU had turned the ball over on 31.7% of their possessions. Imagine what they could have done with four or five of those 13 possessions instead of coughing it up. Maybe that’s two or three or maybe four extra points. Maybe that’s a 39-32 lead at the break. The turnovers technically got better in the second half, as the Golden Eagles finished the game “only” turning the ball over on 30.8% of possessions. That’s a real limited definition of “better” because the 0.9 point change means that they were at roughly 29.9% in the second half, give or take, and that’s still horrifyingly awful, and borderline inexcusable.
Koby McEwen led all scorers in the game with 21 points but he had to shoot 6-for-15 from the field to get there, even with a 3-for-9 performance behind the arc. With Oklahoma State content to play zone defense pretty much the entire game since it was absolutely confounding the Golden Eagles the whole time, I’m shocked that 6’11” Dawson Garcia played just 27 minutes in this game with only two fouls by the end. You’d think the very tall gentleman with pretty decent passing touch (2.0 assists per game coming in) would have been very useful against a zone. Oh well. MU’s leading scorer before tonight finished with just four points in his 27 minutes, and one of those was a tantalizingly easy drive in the game’s opening minutes. Sadly, Jamal Cain’s 13 point, 13 rebound, two assist, one steal outing will be lost to the ages given how badly this one went and also because he fouled out in 33 minutes.
Up Next: #4 Wisconsin at Fiserv Forum. Yeah, I’m sure that’s going to go better. The Badgers are coming off of an 82-42 victory over Green Bay on Tuesday and are 3-0 on the year.