How much of this do we need to dismantle and examine?
On Monday night, tacking on a third misery of the day to the Marquette women’s team losing in overtime and the United States ending up with a very stupid draw in the World Cup, YOUR Marquette men’s basketball team turned in a terrible first half on their way to a 58-55 loss to Mississippi State in the semifinals of the Rocket Mortgage Tip-Off. The Golden Eagles are now 3-2 on the year heading into their Wednesday night consolation game.
The less said about the first half the better. After Kam Jones opened up the scoring in the game with a three-pointer, it was all bad for Marquette. The Golden Eagles shot just 30% from the field including a very bad 1-for-14 beyond the arc after Jones’ game opening bucket. A second basket by Jones would end up being MU’s only points for over eight straight minutes, and somehow by an act of God, the score was only 13-7 when Stevie Mitchell broke up that run. The Golden Eagles would then fall behind by 10, 20-10, with 4:10 left in the opening half, and yes, all of that is true. It was somehow just 23-17 after 20 minutes, and it was honestly a damn miracle that we could even pretend this game was competitive.
To put it another way: MU scored just 0.59 points per possession in the first half in a game that was slowed allllllllll the way down to just 29 possessions in the first 20 minutes.
Gross and also bad. Is grossbad a thing? MU might have invented it here.
Anything good that happened in the second half is because Marquette scored the first five points. First Jones with a layup, then Mitchell with a three-pointer. This made it 23-22 with just over 18 minutes left in the second half, and please believe me when I tell you that this game was exactly as awful as that sounds.
MSU promptly blew the lead back out to seven, which was a bad omen for later on. It took until the 11:56 mark for Marquette to finally tie the thing up — at just 33 points at nearly the three-quarter pole — as Oso Ighodaro put down a nifty dunk for what would end up as his only bucket of the game. MU’s next possession became a layup by Jones, and oh my god, I don’t know how, but Marquette had themselves the lead, 35-33, for the first time since it was 3-2.
With 7:29 to go, Sean Jones got to the rack to put the Golden Eagles up four. This was the closest Marquette would get to winning this game. Eric Reed would answer a minute later for the Bulldogs to cut the lead to one, and Cameron Matthews dunked it to tie it back up at 43-all. Marquette would have the lead just one more time, following a three-pointer from Tyler Kolek with 4:45 to go, and they would have the scored tied just one more time, 48-48, after a layup from Kolek in transition with exactly three minutes left. Kolek would hit a two 40 seconds later to keep MU within one after MSU’s Dashawn Davis rained in a three... and....
Marquette’s next three possessions, perhaps the highest leverage possessions of the entire game, all ended in turnovers, one each for Kam Jones, Kolek, and Olivier-Maxence Prosper. Somehow this did not completely blow the game for Marquette as MSU only scored one layup in the interim.
However, MU was in the middle of what turned into a 2:09 drought. Mississippi State didn’t run away with it so much as just stand there and hold Marquette at arm’s length while the Golden Eagles couldn’t figure out how to defeat that move. The lead was four with 29 seconds to go, David Joplin missed a three-pointer, one of four long range misses and five overall on an oh-fer night for him, and that was pretty much that. Mathematically, sure, Sean Jones’ very late layup gave a sliver of hope to Marquette, but MSU hit their freebies and that was it for sure.
Kolek finished with 16 points and four rebounds, but also just two assists, which tells you exactly how messed up Marquette’s offense was the entire night. Kam Jones had 14 as the only other Golden Eagle in double digits, but it took him 14 shots to get there because he went a very awful 2-for-10 from long range. Yes, that means he was 1-for-9 in the final 39:30, and yes, that’s very bad.
Before we go, I do want to say this: Marquette’s defense was extremely good in this game. Held MSU to 0.88 points per possession and less than 43% effective field goal percentage, forced turnovers on just over 24% of possessions... there’s a lot to like. But also they allowed the Bulldogs to get to way too many offensive rebounds, something that was a known problem from last season, and they also let MSU shoot nearly three times as many free throws as the Golden Eagles did. The point of the story is that defense is not going to drag MU to wins by itself, that was proven for sure in this game.
Up Next: The loss means Marquette gets sent to the consolation bracket to play the team that lost in the other semifinal contest. That’s Georgia Tech in this case, as they suffered their first loss of the season earlier in the day, falling 68-64 to Utah. Tech fell behind 23-4 right out of the gate, trailed 36-28 at the half, went on a 14-2 second half run to take a 48-44 lead, led 57-54 with less than seven minutes left, and then coughed up a 14-7 run the rest of the way.