Another poor second half dooms Marquette against Badgers


Photo by Austin Anderson

Markus Howard led the Golden Eagles with 22 points against Wisconsin.

The first half of Marquette’s biggest game of the non-conference schedule was far from ideal, but the Golden Eagles still took an impressive 5-point lead against Wisconsin into halftime. Then, once again, the second half came and the wheels fell off in dramatic fashion.

Katin Reinhardt’s threes stopped falling. In fact, everyone’s shots stopped falling. Marquette’s shooting percentage went from 48 percent in the first half to the mid-20s for a majority of the second. The team’s ball movement sputtered, as the Golden Eagles managed just one assist in the second frame.

Ethan Happ returned for Wisconsin, dominating Luke Fischer in the paint. Sam Hauser and Jajuan Johnson, two of the team’s best players this season, both had their worst performances of the year. Hauser was invisible, scoring zero points on only one attempt. Johnson wasn’t invisible, in a bad way. He had three turnovers and struggled defensively.

The pitfalls piled up, leading to an breezy 93-84 victory for the Badgers.

“For whatever reason, and I have to figure it out, our starts to second halves have been really poor,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “We allow a team to get so much momentum, and when you’re playing a team that has a chance to make a Final Four run, momentum is a recipe for disaster.”

Marquette earned the advantage early in the game, forcing Wisconsin big man Ethan Happ into early foul trouble. He had two fouls in the first two minutes, leading Wisconsin coach Greg Gard to bench him the rest of the first half.

With Happ’s absence, Fischer was expected to be the Golden Eagles’ main producer. However, he had trouble facing Vitto Brown and a defense quick to double him.

Instead, it was Katin Reinhardt, who has struggled as of late, who found his shot. Reinhardt was 4 for 5 in the first half, scoring 13 points. Fischer did play a role as well. He scored 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting, but turned the ball over twice.

It was poor Marquette defense and a 10-point first half from Badgers point guard Bronson Koenig that kept the Badgers in the game, and once the Golden Eagles’ shots stopped falling in the second, Wisconsin made their move. With Happ back on the floor, the Badgers went on a 25-7 run to start the second half. Happ scored nine of the points in that run, including a miraculous and-one shot from right under the basket.

“He ate Fischer alive,” Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes said.

Happ finished with 11 points, all in the second half, in addition to five rebounds and two assists.

“Our coach told us he was the heart of their team, so we knew that when he was coming back in the game in the second half they were going to be a different team,” Marquette guard Markus Howard said.

The Golden Eagles made a late run, led by leading scorer Howard, which improved shooting numbers but never brought the score to closer than eight.

Howard finished the game with 22 points, a career high. Five Golden Eagles finished in double digits: Fischer (11 points), Howard, Haanif Cheatham (16), Reinhardt (16) and Andrew Rowsey (15). Wisconsin countered with six double-digit scorers of their own, led by Koenig with 18. Brown filled in for Happ nicely, scoring 15, while Khalil Iverson provided scoring off the bench with 16.

Marquette has two games remaining on its non-conference schedule and with both being buy games (Saint Francis and SIUE), Marquette finished 2-3 in its resume-building nonconference games. The Golden Eagles defeated both their SEC opponents, Vanderbilt and Georgia, but fell at the hands of Michigan, Pitt and Wisconsin.

The Golden Eagles will be back in action following their finals week break when they host Saint Francis Dec. 19.