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Sometimes The Hole’s Too Big: Wisconsin 75, #3 Marquette 64

The Golden Eagles didn’t look like the Golden Eagles for 20 minutes and then couldn’t recover.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Wisconsin Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

The lesson as always: Don’t fall behind by 16 points in the first half.

That’s the story of the game, no matter whatever else happened, as Wisconsin held serve on their floor at the Kohl Center and beat #3 Marquette, 75-64, on Saturday.

Marquette’s problems officially started with 15:30 to go in the first half, with Wisconsin holding an early 8-7 lead. That was when Max Klesmit hit his eighth three-pointer of the season on 24 attempts, raising his season shooting percentage to the bare minimum of 33%. It would turn out to be the first of five makes on eight attempts in the first half for Klesmit, and you can see the problem for the Golden Eagles here.

As the first half went along, Klesmit couldn’t stop draining buckets, and the score just kept getting further and further out of control for the Golden Eagles. 20-13 on his second, 27-16 on his third, 36-23 on his fourth, and 44-30 on his fifth, with less than a minute to play in the half.

To be clear: Wisconsin couldn’t do squat on offense without Klesmit. No one else on the Badger roster hit a three in the first half and the rest of the team shot 30% from the field for the first 20 minutes. And yet, the lead peaked at 16 when Chucky Hepburn tossed in some freebies from a foul laden first half with 14 seconds to go, and only a three right before the horn from Kam Jones limited it to a 13 point problem, 46-33, at intermission.

That 16 point differential was the problem in this game, pure and simple, and to an extent, an inability to stop Klesmit, a guy who shot 38% last season, was the biggest reason why the Golden Eagles were down that big.

Now, in fairness to Shaka Smart and his charges: It almost didn’t matter.

After 20 minutes of very much not looking a damn thing like the Marquette team we saw last season and up to this point of this year, the Golden Eagles came out of the locker room very much looking like that team. Jones hit another three to start off the second half, and a 7-0 start for MU prompted a “WHAT DID WE JUST TALK ABOUT” timeout from UW head coach Greg Gard, and Stevie Mitchell tallied the first bucket out of that break to make it 46-42 and a 9-0 run. Extending it further, it was a 14-2 run to start the half and a 17-2 run going back to Kam’s triple at the end of the first, and ta-da: 48-47, 14:46 to play.

The game was, I think it’s fair to say, up for grabs.

Except. Marquette never tied the game. Marquette never took the lead. They had chances, but when they went without a field goal between a Chase Ross layup with 11:26 to go and a Tyler Kolek layup with 4:52, the chances had kind of evaporated. Kolek’s bucket pulled Marquette within single digits, 65-57, and you see the problem with suddenly not scoring a FG for nearly seven straight minutes.

That run was pretty much the ballgame, because with that much of a lead and Wisconsin’s preferred pace, MU just didn’t have the possessions to be able to do anything else to bounce back. It was already too late, and ultimately, that means the real problem was the fact that they were down 16 in the first place.

So stop doing that going forward.

Kam Jones led Marquette with 19 points, while Oso Ighodaro had five rebounds to lead Marquette in that column. Tyler Kolek had a team high six assists to go with his 11 points and three rebounds.

How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?

Up Next: Saturday’s game in Madison was the official start of league play, if you want to think of it that way. There’s just one buy game left on the calendar, and everything else is against a high major opponent the rest of the way. Next on that list? Wednesday’s home game against Texas. The Longhorns are ranked #16 in the country this week and are coming off a 77-58 win against Texas State back on Thursday night.