"You could have played this game ten times and, well, you tell me who would come out," remarked Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan of the 113th meeting all time between Marquette and Wisconsin. "That was two pretty good teams out there today."
The game, however, was not as close as the final score might indicate. Despite charging out to a 7-2 lead in the early going, the Golden Eagles (9-2) squandered the early advantage thanks to a host of turnovers and several miscommunications on defense. A lay-up by Wisconsin guard Marcus Landry at the 8:44 mark in the first half gave the Badgers a 19-12 advantage and capped off a 17-5 UW run. Though Marquette cut the UW lead to 28-25 at half, it was a run that the Golden Eagles would never recover from.
"Our execution lacked on both ends of the floor and theirs was very good," said Marquette coach Tom Crean of the disappointing loss. "If this game wasn't such a big deal, it wouldn't hurt so much for everyone on our side."
Poor overall shooting and dismal on-ball defense plagued Marquette throughout the game. MU shot just 39% from the field and 17% from beyond the arc. Every time Marquette crept back in the game, especially when a Jerel McNeal steal and lay-up cut the UW lead to 62-58 with just over a minute left, Tucker took over. On consecutive possessions, the All-Big Ten guard beat his man off the dribble to ice the game for 11th ranked Wisconsin.
"The guys look to me in situations like that," said Tucker, whose 28 points were a season high. "That is something I love."
Added Taylor, "We pick each other up when our number is called. We had to feed Tucker; he had the hot hand."
The Golden Eagles searched far and wide for an answer to Tucker. On separate occasions, Crean tried Dwight Burke, David Cubillan, Wesley Matthews and even Dan Fitzgerald on Tucker to no avail.
"I would have liked to put Jerel on him in the second half," said Crean. "Obviously with the fouls, we could not do that. He really hurt us on the drive."
Marquette was led offensively by Dominic James, who scored 19 points. McNeal chipped in 16 despite playing with four fouls much of the second half, and Lazar Hayward added 10 points for MU off the bench. The presence of improving Marquette forward Ousmane Barro was sorely missed, as Barro picked up four very questionable foul calls in the game's first 23 minutes.
"The third and fourth fouls were tough ones to swallow," said Crean of the fouls called on Barro that limited him to just 20 minutes. "That hurts when you have to play without guys who are playing really well."
Despite creating 22 turnovers, Marquette failed to set the fast paced tempo that it desired coming into the game. The slow, methodical, but extremely efficient offense of the Badgers silenced the raucous Marquette crowd and aided Wisconsin in capturing their first victory in the Bradley Center since 2000.
**Andrew Sharos is a senior double majoring in History and Secondary Education. He is also the Head Student Writer for Marquettehoops.com.