Chucky Hepburn beat Marquette, there’s no other way to put it.
The 6’2” Nebraska native could not miss in the first half, and that’s not a colorful metaphor. His 19 point outing on Saturday afternoon where he missed just three times in 45 minutes — even after missing most of the second half — was largely because of a perfect 6-for-6 shooting performance in the first half, which included 4-for-4 from long range. That’s how Wisconsin built an 11 point halftime lead, and MU never truly recovered (yes, I know they took the lead, shush, you get the point) on their way to an 80-77 overtime loss.
While Hepburn himself was a massive problem, he wasn’t the only Badger banging home shots. Wisconsin shot 70% from the field in the first half, and while a number of the shots can go into the book described as contested by the Golden Eagles, the fact of the matter is that Marquette just did not look as dialed in on defense as they did against Baylor back on Tuesday night for the opening 20 minutes of basketball.
That’s how they found themselves down 23-15 after a layup by Max Klesmit with 9:32 to go, and yeah, MU immediately answered with eight straight of their own to knot the game at 23. That was good, but the way they fell behind in the first place wasn’t good. For everything that went right in generating all of those first half turnovers against Baylor, Marquette just seemed unwilling to attack the Badgers on either end of the floor with the same vim and vigor. Wisconsin answered MU’s run with five straight points of their own.... and then Hepburn stepped in. Three of his opening half triples came in the final five minutes, two in the final two minutes. In succession, they gave Wisconsin leads of six, seven, and 11 points, as the last one was the last points of the half.
So yeah, 11 point hole, and MU’s offense was pretty much doing what they wanted on the other end. 52% from the field, 5-for-8 from long range, lots of things going right on that end. Defense? Sub-par at best, even if UW was hitting a few shots with hands in faces.
And then the second half started, and Hepburn started limping immediately. The refs blew play dead five seconds in, Hepburn was escorted off the court, and left the arena for the locker room.
And Jordan Davis hit a three to break the ice on the scoring 12 seconds after that.
And Cononr Essegian got a layup 28 seconds after that.
Wisconsin by 16, 46-30, and it was an 11-0 run working back to the final 70 seconds of the first half. Then Marquette started to get it together. A three from Olivier-Maxence Prosper started off an 11-2 MU run that cut the lead to just seven, 48-41, with 14:53 to go. Got ourselves a ballgame all of a sudden. The margin stuck in the neighborhood of seven for a while, not going any lower, not until a transition bucket from Kam Jones with 10:33 to play, and Prosper recovered his own blocked shot for a putback to make it a three point game with just under 10 to play.
The Badgers got the game into stasis again, and held MU off for a while. A little 6-2 stretch cut the margin to just two, 63-61, and then Kam Jones sent Max Klesmit to the line...... just in time for Chucky Hepburn to sub back into the game with 6:56 to go.
Is that a big “uh-oh” moment? Yeah, maybe, kinda, yeah, it was. Klesmit got the lead back to four, and Tyler Wahl made it six on UW’s next possession. An and-1 from Jones slashed it in half, and two free throws from OMax pulled Marquette within 1, 4:54 to go. Hepburn hadn’t attempted a shot since returning, and he missed his first.... and that turned into a four offensive rebound possession for Wisconsin. My god, you could feel the Fiserv Forum crowd drifting towards panic mode until Kam Jones finally hauled in a Jordan Davis miss.
Hepburn missed again, 2:42 to play. Tyler Kolek picked up a steal off of Essegian, and BOOM, hit a sprinting Stevie Mitchel, unattended and untouched, 68-67, Marquette leads, 1:52 to play. 16 point lead, completely wiped off the face off the earth, 17 point tilt overall.
And then Marquette forgot to score to lock up the win. Hepburn had one more in his bag, draining a huge three with just 51 seconds left to put UW up two, 70-68. Marquette ended up with the ball out of bounds on the endline, and ran a great inbound/hand-off give and give and go for a superb dunk from Oso Ighodaro, 22 seconds to play, tie game.
Hepburn missed a three on the other end, and that meant overtime.
The extra session tilted on a three from Davis and a bucket in the paint from Wahl on opposite sides of a miss from Tyler Kolek. Wisconsin by five then, 96 seconds left to go. Who knows what happens if MU is just trading buckets instead of needing to get the stop that they needed to get? But they did get it after two Prosper freebies, and Kam Jones buried a GIGANTIC triple to tie the game with 32 seconds left.
Wisconsin went to Hepburn to just figure out how to win the game, and Marquette sold out to stop him. It almost worked. I don’t know how exactly he found Max Klesmit in the paint with seconds left on the clock, but he did. I don’t know how Klesmit figured out the physics to get the shot up and in, but he did. 79-77, three point something seconds left, MU ran a very bad inbounds play that involved Tyler Kolek throwing a baseball pass to the three-point line in front of MU’s bench. It was a good throw, if that’s where it was supposed to go, but Kam Jones was a step too slow, and it went straight into Tyler Wahl’s arms.
Foul, Wahl splits them, MU has one final chance at a Kolek inbounded miracle, there were no MU jerseys anywhere near by where he threw it, and that’s that.
Did the last two plays kind of stink? Yes! Did Marquette cost themselves the game in the first 21 minutes because rallying back from down 16 is bad and stupid and no one should ever need to do it? Absolutely yes.
Kam Jones was silly in this game, finishing with 26 points on a ferocious 9-for-12 shooting, and was nigh unstoppable when going to the rack in the second half. He also added a team high six rebounds, which is cool. OMax Prosper was the only other Golden Eagles in double digits with 14, and he went the long way around, using seven free throws to balance out his 3-for-11 shooting performance. Tyler Kolek wrapped up his day with six points, three rebounds, eight assists, and two steals. Officially he has five turnovers which is a very real bummer because both of the final two baseball passes get charge to him. A little unfair, but you have to explain the change of possession somehow.
How about some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: First we wait to see how the Associated Press voters deal with the Golden Eagles after they wrecked Baylor and did not look engaged for 20 minutes against Wisconsin. Then it’s North Carolina Central coming to Milwaukee on Tuesday night. Tipoff is set for 7:30pm Central on FS1. The Eagles are 5-4 on the year after rolling through NAIA St. Andrews, 127-40. on Saturday. They are 2-4 against Division 1 teams so far this year, but projected to challenge for the MEAC regular season title.