Okay, so now we’ve had back to back winnable Big East games fall just out of reach. Marquette only allowed ONE UConn field goal from 13:07 in the second half to the 2:30 mark and still managed to lose the game, 70-78. Marquette falls to 0-2 in Big East play and 8-5 on the season.
It started out great, Marquette jumped out to a 18-13 lead at about the 13 minute mark. Kur Kuath scored all of his 8 points in this time, while Tyler Kolek had 4 of his 8 assists. The offense was cooking. It’s worth noting here that Marquette’s PA announcer Mike Jakubowski has started calling Kolek TKO, definitely one of the more fun things to come out of tonight.
With Darryl Morsell out due to COVID protocols, Olivier-Maxence Prosper started in his place and had a decent start to the game. 2 assists off the bat, he missed a couple of layups, but overall his ability to get to the basket was a huge asset.
A quick 12-2 UConn run brought the score to 25-20 in their favor. The Fiserv Forum crowd felt pretty out of it, and MU was playing some pretty sloppy basketball. UConn was hitting the shots that they should be hitting and Marquette wasn’t.
The rest of the half was tit-for-tat as Marquette wouldn’t let UConn run away with the game. UConn led by as much as 7 points on a couple of occasions, but Marquette hung on. The half should have ended on an O-Max dunk. But UConn immediately took the ball down the court and Tyrese Martin hit a buzzer beating three, extending their lead to 43-37.
Stevie Mitchell got a few minutes in the first half and looked dazed and confused. David Joplin played really well overall. He had some very obviously freshman moments of chaos, but was a bright spot on offense for sure. Without Morsell, the wing defense didn’t look up to the usual standards as UConn’s Tyrese Martin torched MU for 15 first half points.
The second half started off how the first half ended. UConn not quite being able to pull away, Marquette just sticking around.
7 points is the biggest lead that UConn was ever able to get until the 14 minute mark when they rattled off a 7 point run to put Marquette 11 points back. 58-47 at the 13 minute mark.
UConn would only hit one other field goal in the next 10 minutes.
This is where the game was surprisingly lost.
Marquette reeled in that 11 point deficit, and turned it into just 2 points at the 9-ish minute mark. Some tough defence combined with an offense that both generated good looks and hit those shots. It’s almost like the two exact things you need to win a game were happening.
But, the offense sputtered once again when they were about to take the lead. Marquette, once again, trailed UConn by just a couple of points for a long time. There were numerous opportunities to tie and to take the lead but no one on the team seemed to want to grab the game and win it.
At the 5 minute mark O-Max (!!!) hit a three, just his fifth of the year, and brought the game to within 1 point. 64-63. UConn called, what I colloquially refer to as, a coward’s timeout. We had been threatening the UConn lead for awhile and this felt like the time we would take it.
Alas, that was just not going to happen.
The eye test says that everyone was just a bit nervous. Without a veteran presence like Morsell to calm the offense down a bit, we faltered. That’s not to say Morsell is a panacea for the offense, we got some great looks in this stretch. Kam Jones, Oso Ighodaro and others all elected to pass rather than shoot decent to good looks. Kur Kuath missed a crucial dunk at the 3:20 mark, as he went up strong but was too far underneath the bucket to get the right angle on it.
Before I get into my analysis of this moment let me say the obligatory thing: a game isn’t won or lost on a single moment, it’s all the mistakes that ... you get the point. This missed dunk probably wins us the game if Kuath can hit it. First, 3:20 left. Second, it ties the game at 67 apiece. It would haVe been Marquette’s first tie in the game since the 11 minute mark of the first half. Momentum is also not a super quantifiable metric, and there’s a strong argument that it doesn’t exist at all. But I sure know that confidence does, and tying that game up on a dunk like that would do great things for the confidence and put a bow on Kuath’s night overall. The crowd probably would have gone nuts, too.
After this dunk, UConn decided to play some offense again and scored 7 points to put them up 74-65. Effectively, the game was out of reach at this point. Kam Jones scored 5 garbage time points to keep the game at a respectable 8 point gap.
Overall, we played okay. I liked the fight that we showed and I LOVE that David Joplin put in some good minutes. Justin Lewis was maybe the only consistent player for us, and also had himself a really good night. O-Max looked to be a key piece for us throughout the game, defending well and showing more glimpses of what he can be capable of on the offensive end.
UConn shot incredibly well from the free throw line, towards the end of the game their free throw percentage eclipsed 90%. They finished with a slightly lower 88.9% on the night, but it’s always going to be hard when the other team shoots free throws like that. It’s kind of just one of those things where we can’t really control it, but we shouldn’t have continued giving them the opportunity to capitalize off our mistakes.
Up Next: An eight day break for Christmas. Marquette goes on the road to close out 2021 against St. John’s on December 29th. St. John’s was scheduled to play Seton Hall but had their game cancelled due to COVID, so as of writing this they have yet to play a Big East game. They do get Butler at home on Thursday, though.