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That’s A Sweep, But Not The Good Kind: Creighton 83, RV Marquette 82

The Golden Eagles hit a bunch of shots, but not when it mattered, and they couldn’t get stops for 40 minutes in Omaha.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

And so, much like New Year’s Day, Marquette men’s basketball tangled with Creighton Bluejays and came up on the short end of the stick in a very winnable game. Your final from Omaha, Creighton 83, Marquette 82. The Golden Eagles are now 17-10 on the season and 9-7 in Big East play.

I’m going to fastforward through most of this game relative to a recap. There’s honestly not a lot to talk about for the tick-tock, here’s what happened part of a recap for a long stretch of this game because it was just a high quality guys making shots basketball game. Marquette did lead by as many as seven points in the first half, getting an 8-0 run to go up five, and then extending that to a 13-3 run to make it 28-21 with 9:49 to play. But guys made shots, like I said, and by halftime, everything was all knotted at 46 each.

The second half was more of the same. Marquette went up four, Creighton rallied and went up five, Darryl Morsell got a layup to put MU up two, and so on. The big stuff, the truly decisive moments of the game started after Trey Alexander sank some free throws with 7:35 to go. That put the Bluejays up 70-69. MU answered with a split set of free throws by Justin Lewis, a second chance layup by Greg Elliott after Morsell missed a challenged dunk in transition, and a second chance bucket from Kur Kuath made it 74-70 MU with 6:11 to go.

The Golden Eagles pretty much just let Ryan Nembhard drain a three-pointer, but Kuath scored again on the other end, and then easily stepped in front of an entry pass to from Nembhard to generate a Morsell layup 10 seconds later on the other end. 78-73, Marquette, 5:02 to go.

That lead held until there was less than four minutes to go, and that’s when the problems truly started for Marquette. Maybe a little bit before that, honestly, as MU couldn’t turn a Ryan Hawkins turnover into points right before the four minute mark. Hawkins went down on the other end and scored, and Morsell went into the lane to answer with what looked like it was going to be a patented short stop pull up jumper..... but he made contact with the defender, that we can all agree on, and the refs declared it to be an offensive foul.

Nembhard scored on the other end, one point game. Olivier-Maxence Prosper missed a second free throw badly, MU up 79-77. Hawkins split some free throws. Justin Lewis turned into a fumble fingers and lost the ball, Hawkins took off in transition, layup, Creighton by 1, exactly two minutes to go.

Morsell missed, Lewis missed a second chance. Hawkins missed to give MU a big stop that they needed in a bad way, and Marquette called timeout to draw it up. They managed to get what I think was exactly the right call if that’s what the called play was: OMax driving to the rim with his weird biomechanics against CU’s Ryan Kalkbrenner and his four fouls. Three possible results, two of them good: He makes the layup or Kalkbrenner fouls him.

Marquette got the third one: The layup rolled off the rim.

But there was 48 seconds left when he missed and Creighton hauled in the miss. It was a quickly run play, with an advantageous plan and a bonus built in: Two for one. No matter what, MU would get the ball back. They needed a stop, and after CU’s timeout with 35 seconds to go, the Golden Eagles’ defense harassed the Bluejays’ offense into Nembhard running to the sideline to throw up an awful twisting fading away three-pointer when literally any shot in the world would have been great.

It hit the shot clock on the bounce off the iron, so Marquette had 17 seconds to play for the win.

Rati Andronikashvili’s man on man defense of Morsell forced the grad transfer into losing it out of bounds.

MU fouled Andronikashvilii on the ensuing inbound, he split two free throws, making it Bluejays by two, 81-79. Marquette was inbounding with five seconds to go after rebounding the missed second FT. Lots of time to accelerate up the court and get literally any shot in the world in the air to tie or win.

Greg Elliott stepped in bounds. Turnover.

What is with CHI Health Center Omaha and weird end line inbounds plays extremely late in games?

Marquette fouled, Kalkbrenner drained both, Kam Jones buried a desperation three with barely any time at all to play, Creighton inbounded properly unlike several years ago, Jays win.

It was one hell of a basketball game, that’s for sure. I don’t even really mind losing it so much because it was a really great game, and it was on the road as well in a game that certainly looked loseable, even when Marquette was going into Finneran Pavilion and winning. That’s not a big deal.

Losing while playing terrible defense, the opposite of something that was going so very well for Marquette a month ago? Doing the opposite of what head coach Shaka Smart wants to build his foundation and plant his flag on? That’s a problem. Marquette surrendered 1.12 points per possession in this game, their fourth worst number this season. Even worse? Two of the other three that were worse than this were the recent UConn and Butler games. Something has gone horribly wrong with MU’s defense, and whatever it is, the coaching staff is clearly struggling to fix it for some reason.

Before his offensive foul and late turnover, Darryl Morsell was having a great game. A game high 23 points on 11-for-18 shooting, two rebounds, two assists, two steals. Sadly wasted here. By the time the final horn sounded, Morsell and Justin Lewis combined for 10 of Marquette’s 16 turnovers in the game, which is something you absolutely can not have from ostensibly your two most relied upon players. Lewis finished with 11 points and seven rebounds elsewhere in his 35 minutes of action.

How about some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?

Up Next: Is it good news or bad news that Marquette doesn’t have a mid-week game this week? I could argue it both ways if I wanted to. In any case, the Golden Eagles have until next Saturday to focus on what went wrong for them here and what’s going wrong in general with the defense. Saturday brings National Marquette Day to the forefront and with it, a noon start at home against Butler. The Bulldogs dropped to 13-15 overall and 6-11 in Big East play on Sunday when they coughed up a 19 point lead and lost, 71-70, in overtime at home to Providence. Butler will have to make a Wednesday night visit to Seton Hall before they come to Milwaukee.