The two most accurate three-point shooting teams in the Big East squared off on Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum..... and shot a combined 15% from long range in the first 20 minutes.
That’s a fact. 2-for-10 from Creighton, 2-for-17 from Marquette. It was no good, and in fact I would call it terrible, horrible, and very bad. To make matters worse for the Golden Eagles, the Bluejays had built a 10 point lead at the break, 32-22.
Things got even worse from there as #15 Creighton remembered how to shoot in the second half to the tune of 46% behind the arc and ended up taking the 73-65 victory over #19 Marquette, and with it, the season series sweep. Marquette falls to 7-6 in Big East play, while the Bluejays are now 10-4 and just half a game back of first place Seton Hall.
I’m making it sound worse than it was, honestly.
Things didn’t really start getting bad until about the five minute mark in the first half, as Damien Jefferson put Creighton up 23-17. Yes, they had played 15 minutes of game action and collectively scored 40 points. Try not to think about that part of it. That was the first time someone had led by more than four points in the first half. It was also part of a 15-4 run by the Bluejays over nearly eight minutes with eight straight at the end that gave them a double digit lead for the first time in the game. Marquette managed to knock it back to five with a bucket from Theo John and a three from Greg Elliott, but the Bluejays matched that with five of their own in the final minute. The final one was a three from Mitch Ballock which left a foreboding tone for the rest of the game.
MU scored the first five out of the locker room, and a dunk by Theo John trimmed the lead to three. Two minutes later, Markus Howard drained a stepback to tie the game at 38. That’s just the kind of start to the second half you want to see from your team when they’re down 10 at the intermission.
And then the wheels immediately fell off.
Layup by Marcus Zegarowski, triple by Ballock, triple by Ty-Shon Alexander. Mix in two of Marquette’s 14 turnovers in that two minute stretch, and it was an ugly way to suddenly trail by eight again. Still, free throws from Koby McEwen and a split pair from Markus Howard made it a five point game with 11:05 to play.
It felt like the game was there for the taking, Marquette just needed to put a couple of possessions together and get on even the tiniest run. That didn’t happen. The Bluejays found away to put together five straight of their own eventually, and that built the lead to 13 with 6:11 to go. Marquette finally scored on back-to-back possessions after that, but things had slipped further away from them. MU got it within six on a Howard three-pointer with 3:14 to go, but Alexander answered with one of his own. Another three from Howard made it a five point game with less than two to play, but Damien Jefferson answered with a layup.
Creighton just kept coming up with answers to every punch Marquette threw at them. MU had one last gasp after a layup by Koby McEwen cut the margin to six. They fouled Jefferson with 26 seconds to play, and the junior from East Chicago missed the freebie. Theo John secured the rebound, Marquette went flying up the court, Markus Howard went dribbling through traffic to find space to bury a three and cut the lead in half.......... and he lost the handle. One more foul just in case with 16 seconds left, two makes from Denzel Mahoney, and that was that.
Annoying, sure. Frustrating, yes. Bad? Probably not. If you look at the Associated Press poll, this was the equivalent of a 4/5 second round NCAA tournament game. The #4 seed won because they made more shots and made more plays. Tip your cap and move on, I guess.
Sacar Anim led the way with 18 points on the night, but it took him 18 shots to get there whilst shooting 2-for-9 from long range. Howard had 13, John had 12, and Koby McEwen had 10 points, even while missing all six of his three-pointers. You’d like to think that Marquette should have 1) a very good chance to win and 2) a very good offensive night when four guys score in double digits, but that was absolutely not the case in this one.
Special extra bonus shoutout to Theo John for adding 10 rebounds to his 12 points in 31 minutes of action after being reduced to just eight minutes of playing time in the game in Omaha.
How about some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of FS1 and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Oh, crap, guaranteed weirdness against Providence is next? This stinks. The Friars got a big home win over Seton Hall on Saturday and will visit Georgetown on Wednesday night before opening up The Dunk for the Golden Eagles on Saturday on Fox.