MILWAUKEE – On a night where Marquette needed to have one of its finer performances, the Golden Eagles instead turned in one of their most disappointing to date. The visiting Red Storm went on a 32-12 run over the course of 12 minutes in the second half to hand Marquette its fifth loss in their past seven outings, 80-68, in front of a disheartened crowd of 17,270 at the Bradley Center Tuesday evening.
"I didn't think we played very well at all tonight," said Head Coach Buzz Williams. "I apologize to Coach McGuire's family and anyone else who was here for him [on his annual night of recognition]."
St. John's (16-9, 8-5 BE) was led by senior guard Dwight Hardy who tallied a game-high 28 points and surely got the best of his former junior college teammate Dwight Buycks. Three other Red Storm players finished in double figures – Brownlee (11), Kennedy (15), and Burrell (10) – as the visitors turned over Marquette (15-11, 6-7 BE) 18 times leading to 18 points to secure their first victory in the series in nearly 45 years.
"Dwight is the best shooter I've coached in my career," said St. John's Head Coach Steve Lavin. "He's really improved his play-making and [the fact that] we had no turnovers in the second half is a credit to him."
The first half saw both teams struggle back and forth with neither side taking more than a four point advantage at any juncture. Both teams used a variety of different defensive looks with the intent of creating turnovers and speeding up the pace of the game. St. John's made use of a 2-2-1 full court press and 3-2 half court zone while Marquette showed a full court man-to-man trapping press and even mixed in a triangle and two in the half court at times. Each side's defense proved bothersome to the opposition at times, but going into intermission the two sides were gridlocked at 38 apiece.
The final twenty minutes started out promising for the Golden Eagles as they opened on a 7-0 run capped by a Chris Otule dunk at the 16:47 mark. The lead wouldn't last long however as Lavin immediately called a time out and St. John's fortunes began to change.
Out of the time out, senior forward Justin Brownlee proceeded to throw down a thunderous dunk over two Marquette players and a mere two minutes later the Red Storm found themselves up one thanks to a DJ Kennedy basket. While Marquette managed to stay close over the next four minutes, one could definitely sense that the Johnnies were on the verge of blowing the game wide open.
And then the turnovers came.
Over their next four possessions the Golden Eagles turned the ball over three times which allowed St. John's to grow the lead to ten points on the heels of a dunk, layup and two free throws. This proved to be the dagger for Marquette as they never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
"We didn't execute offensively to give ourselves a chance," said Williams. "We are in the top ten in the country in assist to turnover [ratio] and tonight we had one assist per every turnover. If you turn it over 18 times, every good thing we do goes away."
This is not to say that the Golden Eagle didn't have chances down the stretch. Marquette managed to shoot 50 percent from the field over the final twenty (9-18) and had seventeen attempts from the charity stripe (only made 11) but seemed unable to help themselves. They gave up numerous open looks (some at the end of the shot clock), 11 offensive rebounds, and forced the issue way too much on the offensive end at times.
"There are times where you have to get a paint touch," said Jimmy Butler who led all Golden Eagles with 23 points. "[But tonight] we were so focused on getting paint touches that we passed up on some good shots."
Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom also finished in double figures for Marquette with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Marquette returns to action Saturday evening at 8 pm CST against Seton Hall at the Bradley Center.
Game notes:…St. John's outscored MU in the paint 38-22, held a 21-13 advantage in fast break points, and outscored the Golden Eagle bench 19-4…it was the first double-digit defeat of the season for Marquette… and it was only the second time all season the Golden Eagles lost despite outrebounding their opponents (33-32).
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