National Marquette Day is a day for winning.
It didn’t look like it at the start, but at the final horn, it was YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles 64, Butler 56. The Golden Eagles are now 18-10 overall and 10-7 in Big East play with two regular season games left to go.
We all remember the first meeting with Butler this season because of how that game started. The Bulldogs were white hot out of the gate and put the Golden Eagles in a 40-19 hole before the echoes from the starting lineup announcements had stopped reverberating in Hinkle Fieldhouse. You would have thought that “hey, step on them early” would have been high on the list of things on the scouting report for Shaka Smart this time around. At the very least, mention that last time that the team “didn’t respect the game” to use the head coach’s own postgame words.
Yeah, so, that’s not what happened. Butler scored, relatively easily at that, on their first four possessions of the game and on five of the first six and seven of the first nine. This took less than five minutes, and Bryce Nze’s bucket on that ninth possession made it 17-12 Bulldogs. A little more than two minutes later, it was scoring on 10 of the first 14 possessions, and Butler led 23-14 with 12:24 left in the first half.
This sucked, big time. A literal failure to learn anything from how the first meeting with Butler went, literally the exact opposite of what you would have wanted to see. Honestly, if it was 23-22, I’d probably be less annoyed about the entire deal because at least that’s just trading buckets. Instead, Marquette was getting outclassed on their own floor, and on the 30th annual National Marquette Day, at that.
At least it wasn’t Scott Frost Day, too.
The jumper from Jayden Taylor there prompted a timeout from Shaka Smart. We’ll never know exactly what was said in that timeout, but at the very least, we know that Marquette started using some of their three-quarter/full court pressure defense coming out of it. This immediately created two turnovers on Butler’s first two possessions. Only one of those possessions turned into points for Marquette, but if nothing else, Butler was now being disrupted.
Prime amongst the disruptors? Stevie Mitchell. He had the steal on the first turnover, and he recorded the assist on Olivier-Maxence Prosper’s bucket out of it. Then he blocked Jayden Taylor, and that third straight stop turned into a transition bucket for Darryl Morsell on the other end. Nine point lead cut to just four in 75 seconds.
David Joplin checked in for his nightly five minutes and he made an immediate impact. He hit a three on his first possession on the floor, then blocked Bo Hodges, then drove to the rim and scored to make it 26-24 Butler with 7:34 to go.
Hey, look, a ball game.
Oso Ighodaro knotted the game at 26 to officially wipe out Butler’s lead, but they took it back, just barely, over the final three minutes. It was 33-30 at intermission, favoring the road team, but this is the important part: Butler scored 23 points in the first 7:36 of the game. Over the next 12:24? Just 10 points.
Remember that 23 point number for a minute.
The second half started out poorly. Bryce Golden took in a bounce pass from name partner Bryce Nze for a dunk on the first possession after the clock started again, and then Kur Kuath managed to step inbounds while trying to inbound even though there was no reason for him to have to worry about his foot placement. Not ideal, and Shaka Smart took this infraction extremely seriously and we didn’t see Kuath the rest of the game. (Ighodaro was doing really well, so it’s not just because of this, but also he immediately subbed Kuath out.)
Aaron Thompson got a layup to go to put Butler up five, and generally speaking, no one except the guys on the visitor’s bench was thrilled with what was happening. Tyler Kolek took things into his hands for a minute, getting into the paint to score, and then hitting a three to cut it to a two point game. Justin Lewis, who was a comically awful 0-for-6 with two turnovers in the first half, scored in transition for his first points of the game and tied the thing at 37.
Okay, turning around! Nope, Marquette couldn’t buy a bucket. The Golden Eagles went for over four minutes with nothing but a Greg Elliott free throw to show for their efforts, and Ty Groce got to the line to put Butler up five. Not great.
But Marquette has Stevie Mitchell. The freshman twisted his way to the rim for a layup, and then came up with a steal on the other end. Fast forward a little bit and Butler said “wait, he’s shooting 3-for-14 from behind the arc, we don’t have to close out on him, do we?” and Stevie saw the gap in the defense just sitting there, and he said “hey, not okay,” and buried a three right into Butler’s souls. 43-43, 11:14 to play.
If only Marquette could maintain their strong play for multiple possessions. And-1 for Thompson, Taylor got to the line. Four point lead for the Bulldogs, 47-43.
But Justin Lewis decided to put together some time that made everyone realize exactly how good he is. He scored off a Tyler Kolek feed and drew the foul from Nze, and-1. Simas Lukosius coughed it up, tough as nails jumper from Morsell, Marquette leads, 48-47. And then, to cap the 7-0 run, an absolute hammer of a dunk from Lewis.
Marquette would never relinquish the lead.
Oso Ighodaro (remember I said he was playing well?) made Bryce Golden look like a turnstile for the bucket you see in the picture at the top. Lewis got some freebies. A three from Darryl Morsell. Six point Marquette lead, 4:55 to play.
But it wasn’t over, no one would have said it was. Some Lukosius free throws made it a four point game with under three minutes to go.
And then, this:
I’m not going to lie to you. I saw Kolek poke it to Kam Jones with the shot clock expiring, and because it’s Kam Jones, I said out loud to no one particular, “oh, this is going in” because of course Kam is going to hit that. I was half wrong. Live, I had no idea where Justin Lewis came from. The ball hit the rim, I said “ah well, at least he hit rim so it’s not a shot clock violation,” it hit the back board, I looked to see who would rebound, and LEWIS MAGICALLY APPEARED OUT OF THIN AIR to hammer it home, or at least that’s how it looked like to me.
If that didn’t end it, Kam Jones’ hesitation dribble layup with 63 seconds left did. Marquette by seven after that, and Morsell made it academic with a 3-for-4 run at the free throw line int he final minute.
Remember that 23 points thing I told you to remember? So. Bo Hodges hit a jumper with 51 seconds to play. That was Butler’s first field goal made since Golden got a layup with 7:54 to play. One field goal in the final 7:53. Hodges’ jumper was BU’s final points of the half, which gave them — you guessed it — 23 points in the entire second half.
To drive the point home: Marquette held the Bulldogs to 0.697 points per possession in the second half.
Morsell was Marquette’s leading scorer in the game, getting 16 points thanks to those final three free throws, and he added four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Lewis scored all 11 of his points in the second half, going 4-for-8 from the field in the final 20 minutes. He wrapped up with seven rebounds, two assists, a block, and two steals. No one else got into double digits, in fact no one else got closer to it than Greg Elliott, who had two twisting layups and some free throws for seven total points. Tyler Kolek’s five assists led the squad in that column.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: MU’s next game is their final road game of the regular season. On Wednesday night, the Golden Eagles will make their way south on I-94 for their yearly visit to see DePaul. The Blue Demons are 13-14 on the year and 4-13 in Big East play, but they snapped a four game losing streak by beating Georgetown on Thursday. They have to host St. John’s on Sunday before starting to prepare for the Golden Eagles. Tipoff at Wintrust Arena is scheduled for 8pm Central on CBS Sports Network.