N.C. State comes from behind to beat Marquette

N.C. State forward Tracy Smith shoots over Marquette's Jimmy Butler.

Second halves had not typically been a problem for the Marquette men’s basketball team. In fact, inthe Golden Eagles’ first few games they typically had trouble out of the gate, only to come out of the break relaxed and poised.

But after the team’s abysmal second half that resulted in a 77-73 loss to North Carolina State Saturday, Marquette appears to have started a habit that it quickly needs to kick.

Following the intermission, N.C. State rolled out a 16-4 run, taking the lead by the 13:38 mark.

“They started really strong in the first four minutes of the second half, which is typically when we play our best,” coach Buzz Williams said.

Since the start of the season, Marquette has always had second-half success. Through the team’s first six contests, the Golden Eagles outscored opponents by an average of 13 points in the second half. In the last two games, opponents outscored the Golden Eagles by an average of 13.5 points in the second half.

After a first period in which the Wolfpack shot just 35.7 percent from the field, they came out in the second to hit 71.4 percent, including 4-of-4 from behind the 3-point line.

What does it mean when an opponent shoots 71.4 percent?

“It means we weren’t playing ‘D,’ ” junior Jimmy Butler said. “We weren’t closing out. We jump at a pump fake. We weren’t fronting the post, weren’t getting on the post. Just a lot of different things, but in the end we didn’t guard anybody.”

The numbers agree.

After Marquette outscored N.C. State in the paint 14-8 in the first half, N.C. State outscored Marquette in the paint 24-8 in the second half. The biggest beneficiary was Wolfpack leading scorer, 6-foot-8, 247-pound junior Tracy Smith. The Golden Eagles held Smith to just two points (1-for-4) in the first frame, before letting him net 17 more points (8-for-10) in the second.

“They got the ball where they wanted to get it, whether that was by the pass or the bounce, they got great paint touches, they ran every play that they wanted to run in the second half and for the most part they scored nearly every time,” Williams said.

The loss to N.C. State came less than a week after Marquette gave away a 17-point second half lead in its 57-56 loss to Florida State in the championship round of the Old Spice Classic.

“We were OK except for the last nine minutes against Florida State,” Williams said. “We didn’t play any of the 20 minutes in the second half today the way we have to.”

Despite the back-to-back poor second-half performances, Williams said he isn’t worried about a poor second-half trend. Nor is he attributing the loss to his team’s youth or the fatigue that comes from playing just seven players.

“That’s not why we got beat,” Williams said. Instead he offered a much simpler explanation. “We got beat because we couldn’t get stops.”

Williams, Butler and senior guard Maurice Acker all suggested that the team was focusing too much on scoring and not enough on defending.

“Some of our players, we’ve got to get used to resting on offense instead of on defense,” Acker said. “I think we were doing more resting on defense than offense. We can’t have that.”