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Oh Well: #24 Connecticut 80, #18 Marquette 72

The Golden Eagles fall behind big in the first half and never fully recover, although they did make it close

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

I hate when I have to start recaps off like this, but it’s the quickest and easiest way to explain what happened:

The lesson as always? Don’t fall behind by 14 in the first place.

That’s what happened in the first half to YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles, as the #18 team in the country lost, 80-72, to #18 Connecticut on Tuesday night. The loss drops MU to 16-8 on the year and 8-5 in the Big East. UConn advances to 16-6 and 7-4 in the league.

For the first 11 minutes of the game, this was just a college basketball game. You score, we score, etc. UConn built a six point lead, but Tyler Kolek scored off a turnover to tie the game at 21.

And then things went sideways for Marquette, and ultimately, they stayed that way. A 10-1 run by the Huskies was capped by a triple from Tyler Polley, and then they extended that run to 17-3. Adama Sanogo’s bucket with 4:52 left in the first half made it 38-24, and when you look at the remaining 24:52, that was all the space UConn needed.

Marquette cut it back to eight before the half ended, although a Jordan Hawkins basket made it a 10 point game at intermission. The Golden Eagles were able to get down into single digit town, and a three-pointer from Greg Elliott made it 53-50 with 13:38 to play. 90 seconds later, Oso Ighodaro caught a pass from Justin Lewis and drew a foul going up with it. He sank both freebies, and it was a one point game. This is the good news of the evening: Marquette refused to stop fighting. This is the big takeaway. Yes, the hole ended up being too big to come back from, but that didn’t stop the guys from trying their damnedest to do it anyway.

UConn answered as officially, they never lost the lead. Perhaps most annoyingly in this situation, the Huskies scored their next six points of the game and eight of the next 10 all on free throws. Those next 10 were all in a row, by the way, and so it was an 11 point margin again, 63-52, with 7:39 to go.

But MU fought again, a three by Darryl Morsell capped an 8-0 to make it a one possession game. UConn answered with a 9-1 run. Marquette’s last flicker of hope came when Greg Elliott got a putback with 2:20 to go to make it a six point game. That’s just a a stop, a three, another stop, and a three. More than enough time........

Except Tyrese Martin scored (so much for the stop) and then Andre Jackson remembered he’s crazy athletic, and he stole the inbounds. If you fold everything that transpired after Jackson’s steal into the possession before it that ended with Martin’s layup, UConn held the ball from 2:19 left in the game until there was just 47 seconds to go. That was that.

As you can probably guess from the part where UConn went up big and then did enough to hold Marquette off, MU’s defense was not up to the standard in this game. The Huskies shot 43% from behind the three-point line and finished with an effective field goal percentage of 53%. When they weren’t making their shots, they were getting second chances. 14 times a missed UConn shot ended up back in their hands in this game, which was on 45% of the few misses that occurred. That’s how you end up handing Marquette their worst defensive outing of the season from an efficiency perspective.

Marquette was led on the night by — this is not a joke — 18 points from Olivier-Maxence Prosper, who shot 7-for-8 from the field and made at least his first five shots on the night, maybe more. UConn had absolutely no idea how to defend the big man from Montreal, and if we’re being honest about it, Marquette’s just not prepared to suddenly take advantage of OMax being the unstoppable juggernaut. Justin Lewis just missed a double-double on 17 points and nine rebounds, and Greg Elliott shot 3-for-6 from long range to add 17 points off the bench.

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

Up Next: With The Seven Game Stretch Of Doom behind them, Marquette begins their final stretch of six games to end the regular season on Saturday. That one comes in the form of a road trip to Butler, with tipoff set for 3:30pm Central on FS1. The Bulldogs are 11-12 on the year and 4-8 on the season, but they are also tied at 21 late in the first half at Creighton as I type this.