Marquette led by 18 on the road with 5:44 to play, seemingly in control. But a 15-0 run for Louisville left it anybody's ballgame with less than two minutes to play, and the shell-shocked Golden Eagles didn't have it in them to make the plays needed to in order to stave off the comeback from the red-hot Cardinals, who pulled out a 71-70 win.
A big problem was that, once they got up by 18, the Golden Eagles got passive on offense. Despite the fact that the Cardinals' big men were all in foul trouble, Marquette stopped attacking and became vulnerable when Louisville's shooters heated up.
The Golden Eagles played poorly in the last 30 seconds, with a pair of brain cramps providing the critical difference in defeat, but had they kept attacking on offense, then Dwight Buycks' ill-advised drive and the defense's lack of a switch on a late pick-and-roll would not have mattered.
One fringe benefit of being a Golden Eagles fan, at least, is that these losses aren't uncommon. Marquette has had its share of both memorable comebacks and stunning collapses over the past few seasons, though this loss was arguably the worst of the latter group. (The defeat at the buzzer in the 2009 Big East tournament to Villanova would also be a strong contender.) Now, the trick is getting beyond that to focus on the upcoming games against DePaul and Notre Dame.
--Marquette shot 12 of 17 from 3-point range in a victory over Notre Dame on Jan. 10, but it couldn't carry that over to the next game. In the loss to Louisville, the Golden Eagles shot 4-for-17 from long range.
--Senior G Dwight Buycks was a 27.3 percent 3-point shooter in his first season at Marquette a year ago. He was up to 44 percent this season through Jan. 16, and he was 10-for-14 over his last three games from beyond the arc.
BY THE NUMBERS: 24-5 -- Louisville's game-ending run against Marquette. That turned what had been an 18-point lead with 5:44 to play into a 71-70 defeat.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's hard anytime you go on the road and lose, it's hard -- particularly when you are ahead or are in a position to win. But like every other coach in our league says, I wish we could feel sorry for ourselves and cry about it, but we play DePaul on Tuesday. So we have to hope for safe travel home and start again tomorrow to prepare for DePaul." -- Coach Buzz Williams, after the loss to Louisville.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. DePaul, Jan. 18
KEY MATCHUPS: DePaul is a good team for the Golden Eagles to play this week, since the Blue Demons may be the least talented bunch in the Big East, and the Golden Eagles are looking for some confidence. Still, Oliver Purnell has his team playing aggressive pressure defense, which won't make it easy for the Marquette backcourt to get into a rhythm.
--at Notre Dame, Jan. 22
KEY MATCHUPS: Let's just say that the Fighting Irish should be ready for this one. These teams just met on Jan. 10, and the Golden Eagles shot the lights out in a 79-57 shellacking of the then-No. 11 Irish. Notre Dame will certainly be more ready for Dwight Buycks, who went 5-for-5 from 3-point range in that victory.
FUTURES MARKET: Jamal Ferguson recently gave Marquette a verbal commitment, and he will become the first member of the 2012 recruiting class once he signs his letter-of-intent. The 6-foot-8 forward picked the Golden Eagles over Georgetown, making the commitment extra special since it keeps him away from a Big East rival.
--Sophomore guard Junior Cadougan was the player Louisville chose to foul in the final minute, thanks to him entering the game shooting 43.5 percent from the line. Though he made just one of the two attempts at that point, he finished 7-for-8 for the game.
--Freshman G Vander Blue played just five minutes against the Cardinals. Coach Buzz Williams said after the game that the move wasn't injury-related, but rather due to Blue's performance. Blue had three fouls and one turnover in those five minutes.