Andre Smith stole the show for North Dakota State, a division one independent school, scoring 14 second half points and 26 for the game. Mike Nelson chipped in 19 for the Bison earning Tournament MVP honors.
"It was fun, I'll tell you that much," said NDSU Coach Tim Miles of his team's upset victory. "We do not get a March, so we had to approach this like a March event. This was a statement night for us—we took the fight to them."
The eighth ranked Golden Eagles (8-1) trailed for all but the first minute of the game. MU shot just 35% from the floor and 20% from the three point arc en route to losing their second consecutive Blue and Gold Classic. Jerel McNeal was the only Marquette player in double figures with 16 points.
"We got beat by the better team tonight, without a doubt," remarked Tom Crean of Marquette's first loss of the season. "They beat us fair and square in every facet of the game.
"They manhandled us."
MU did manage to force 25 turnovers, but their inefficiency on offense and poor shooting was just too much to overcome.
"Turnovers are overrated," joked Miles when asked if his team had ever won a game with so many giveaways. "We won last year at Wisconsin with 26 turnovers."
Though MU trailed for the entire game, the Golden Eagles we able to cut the Bison lead to 49-46 off a lay-up by Wesley Matthews with 3:24 left. On the next possession, NDSU forward Brett Winkelman found Mike Nelson for a three point basket to give the Bison some breathing room. From there, North Dakota State (5-2) shot 6-6 from the free throw line to seal the deal.
"We have to take this as a wake-up call," said Jerel McNeal of the shocking loss. "We made plays in a few close games earlier this year, but tonight it caught up with us."
Added Mathews, "If you can take a positive from this, it takes us back to reality."
Reality will set in quickly as Marquette must find its groove in time for a home match against Delaware State on Tuesday. Following Delaware State, Marquette faces a 13th ranked Wisconsin team, who knows exactly how it feels to lose to North Dakota State on their home floor. North Dakota State beat the Badgers last season 62-55.
**Andrew Sharos is the Head Student Writer for Marquettehoops.com and is a Senior majoring in History and Secondary Education.