It took a lot of doing, a lot of effort from a lot of moving parts, but at the end of the day, it was Marquette 85, St. John’s 77, on Senior Night at Fiserv Forum. The Golden Eagles wrap up the regular season with a record of 19-11 overall and 11-8 in the Big East. That’s good enough for a tie for fifth place in the league as well as the tiebreaker to give MU the #5 seed in next week’s Big East tournament.
As it should on Senior Night, the game started with Marquette’s seniors making the plays: Darryl Morsell scored on the first possession of the game, Greg Elliott got to the line twice in transition with one of them coming on a three-point attempt, and Kur Kuath swatted a Joel Soriano shot as St. John’s came up empty on their first five possessions of the game. Tack on a Justin Lewis three-pointer, and the Golden Eagles were up 10-0 out of the gate just over two minutes in.
And then St. John’s answered with eight straight of their own, and we officially had a ballgame on our hands.
The game wobbled between Marquette by two and Marquette by six for a stretch, right up until the midway point of the first half when Dylan Addae-Wusu knocked down back-to-back three-pointers for a personal 6-0 run. That gave St. John’s their first lead of the game at 19-18.
Kuath immediately took it back for Marquette, sticking his own shot attempt back up and in, and a 9-0 run over two-ish minutes exclusively by Lewis punctuated by a ferocious breakaway dunk thanks to a Stevie Mitchell steal put Marquette back up 10 again, 29-19, with 7:14 to play.
St. John’s kept punching back, immediately cutting the margin to six, and it stuck in that general vicinity for a stretch. Julian Champagnie scored in transition with 4:04 to go to make it a three-point game, but MU would hold the Red Storm to just one field goal in the final four minutes of the first half. Mix in a few more points for Marquette, and it was 42-35 at the break.
Probably should have been 44-35, maybe 45-35, but Olivier-Maxence Prosper never looked at the clock after picking Posh Alexander’s pocket with two seconds to go. He went straight for the rim and I’m pretty sure that the horn sounded before he left his feet for the dunk. Please, sir, just put it in the air, that’s all I’m asking.
So a relatively positive end to the first half (as long as you disregard OMax’s boo-boo) didn’t last, as St. John’s scored the first five points of the second half. Surprise, two-point game. Yay. Yet once again, the two sides jousted back and forth for a spell before Kuath got a bucket, and then a pair of free throws, and then Elliott hit his only three-pointer of the game to make it 55-46 with 16:19 to go. And then Marquette let St. John’s back in the game by allowing a 7-2 run.
Generally speaking, this is probably right about where Marquette won the game. Sure, it’s not a memorable stretch of the contest, but St. John’s never got closer than four points. MU pushed the lead back to nine, St. John’s cut it back to six. Clearly not decisively over, but at some point, the clock becomes Marquette’s friend and the Johnnies were rapidly running out of free time to push up and over the hump.
We can’t even say that Justin Lewis’ three with 2:02 to go was the dagger here, because St. John’s immediately answered with four straight, and a five point game with 90 seconds left is still in doubt. But Lewis got to the line for some freebies, and then SJU’s Montez Mathis mouthed off after missing a layup and Darryl Morsell pulled in the rebound. Technical foul, Two free throws by Lewis, Marquette by nine, 64 seconds left.
Still, I didn’t feel 100% comfortable with the win until after Darryl Morsell split a set of free throws with 19 seconds left. The Johnnies cut it to just six points twice in the final 40 seconds, and a lot of weird things can happen. But Morsell’s FT with 19 seconds to go made it a nine point game. Not much you can do at that point.
All three seniors made a big impact on the game on Senior Night. Darryl Morsell finished with 20 points even though he was 0-4 from long range, and he added six rebounds and four assists. Kur Kuath had 12 points, including a couple of ferocious alley-oop dunks, to go with seven rebounds and a block. Greg Elliott had eight points, six rebounds, and four assists.
He’s not a senior, but with NBA scouts hovering at every game, there’s a real chance we might not see Justin Lewis in blue and gold at Fiserv Forum again. If that’s the case, he put on a show in his last contest. 28 points on a 55% effective field goal percentage performance thanks to 4-for-7 three-point shooting, plus seven rebounds, plus two blocks, plus a steal, plus those late freebies to help put the game away.
How about some highlights courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: 1:30pm in the afternoon next Thursday. #5 seed Marquette takes on #4 seed Creighton in the Big East tournament quarterfinals. Winner advances to the semifinals on Friday where they’ll get either #1 seeded Providence or the winner of the 8/9 game which would be either Xavier or Butler. It’s not officially up on KenPom.com yet, but since I know how the system works, I can officially tell you that #41 MU will be favored over the #67 Bluejays on a neutral floor.