The last time Marquette played at Louisville, the Golden Eagles squandered an 18-point lead in less than six minutes in what is considered one of the team’s worst meltdowns in recent memory.
After Sunday’s 70-51 loss to the Cardinals, it’s apparent the KFC Yum! Center still haunts the Golden Eagles.
Junior guard Vander Blue led Marquette with 17 points, while Russ Smith and Peyton Siva paced the Cards with 18 and 14 points, respectively. Louisville’s dominant paint presence and frustrating man-to-man defense got the Cards into a groove early on, and they never looked back. Louisville outscored the Golden Eagles 42-20 in the paint and forced Marquette into 17 turnovers.
Those miscues were costly, as Louisville converted them into 32 points. Coach Buzz Williams was aware beforehand how effectively the Cardinals have capitalized on opponents’ mistakes all year.
“You have to beat Louisville twice,” Williams said. “You have to beat them in the front court, then you have to beat them in the backcourt. Going into today, one of every three points they scored was based off turnovers. The problem was, too often, we turned it over without getting a field goal attempt. It’s hard to beat them without a field goal attempt.”
It appeared that whoever Louisville coach Rick Pitino put on the floor gave Marquette problems, particularly on the offensive end. The Cardinals won the bench scoring battle, 19-10.
“They have a well-rounded team,” senior guard Trent Lockett said. “Russ and Peyton were getting to the paint and drawing help. We were not in good position to take up space and get defensive rebounds. They had a good game plan, and all the credit goes to them.”
Lockett finished with 16 points and three rebounds and was the only other player besides Blue to score in double figures for Marquette (6-2 Big East).
Controlling the defensive glass proved to be unusually difficult for the Golden Eagles. They could only muster a total of 11, well below their season average of 24.5 per contest.
“If everybody’s not going well, it’s hard for us to win,” Blue said. “We’re a team that relies on everybody doing their part, and if we don’t do that, we’re usually not that successful.”
In its 70th game in the top 25 under Williams, Marquette jumped out to a 9-1 lead early, holding Louisville without a field goal for the first 5:40. The Golden Eagles would then let the Cards go on a 37-15 run to close the half, becoming flustered by full-court pressure and settling for off-balanced shots late in the shot clock.
Louisville pushed its lead to 53-30 when Luke Hancock made back-to-back threes, and Marquette would not get any closer than 15 the rest of the game.
The Golden Eagles play at South Florida (1-8) tomorrow, which is coming off an overtime loss at Connecticut. Blue is hoping the team can learn from the road loss as it prepares for the road showdown.
“Any time you play on the road, you have to be better than great, because it’s hard to win on the road, especially in this league,” Blue said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”