Marquette fails to close yet again in loss to Butler


Photo by Austin Anderson

Luke Fischer scored two points and fouled out of Marquette’s 88-80 loss to Butler.

INDIANAPOLIS — Even with Marquette’s sharpshooting talent, the law of averages says a team getting layups should win against a team shooting from long range. The Golden Eagles learned that the hard way Monday in Indianapolis.

No. 13 Butler scored 63 points in the second frame, taking advantage of a half of easy looks to erase an 18-point second-half deficit. The Golden Eagles fell 88-80 in a game they’ll come back to if they are on the outside looking in in March.

Three of Butler’s big men finished in the double digits as the Bulldogs scored 24 points in the paint in the second half. Kelan Martin and Andrew Chrabascz scored 22 and 10, respectively, while Kethan Savage was a spark plug off the bench in the second half. He earned multiple trips to the line, scoring 14 of his 17 points in the second.

“We came out not playing any defense for the whole second half, really,” center Luke Fischer said. “That’s what got us our big lead in the first half. We failed to really compete at all.”

Fischer was at the core of Marquette’s issues. He had trouble anticipating plays and keeping up with Butler’s quick and crafty big men. The high percentage looks helped the Bulldogs shoot 70 percent in the second half.

“Luke’s really struggled and we need him to be good,” Wojciechowski said. “It’s not a matter of scoring. It’s a matter of playing defense and rebounding. It’s a mystery.”

“It’s frustrating, but I’ve got to get it out of my head,” Fischer said. “Once the defense comes along, the offense will come along with it.”

When Marquette didn’t give up open looks, they were forced to foul. The Bulldogs were in the bonus for the final 13 minutes of the game, and Fischer fouled out with 2:48 left.

The defeat overshadowed another stellar performance from freshman Markus Howard, who scored 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting. Sixteen of those points came in the first half, and he scored seven straight to open the game.

He and the Golden Eagles played a nearly perfect first half, taking a 41-25 lead into the locker room thanks largely to a 7-for-15 shooting performance from long range. The freshmen were the stars, as Howard’s 16 and Hauser’s 11 on 4-for-4 shooting combined for 63 percent of the team’s offense. Even though the rest of the team shot 4-for-15, the Golden Eagles looked steady on the offensive end, assisting on seven out of 15 baskets.

However, Butler lived up to their reputation of a second half team. The Bulldogs have trailed in five straight games at the break and still managed to pull out four victories.

On the other hand, Marquette has failed to retain large second half leads on multiple occasions, including against Pittsburgh and twice against Seton Hall.

“When you lose leads like that, it definitely sticks with you,” Howard said. “We just have to continue to stay positive.”

While Butler was able to take care of business offensively in the second, the 3-pointers dried out for the Golden Eagles. The team shot 3-for-11 in the second, and Wojciechowski said the team abandoned the drive-and-kick strategy that was successful in the first. Instead, they settled for extended dribble threes.

Hauser, who hit three 3-pointers in the first, missed his only attempt. Katin Reinhardt hit only one of his five attempts.

“When other teams have made runs on us in the second half when we have a lead, our answer is always, ‘Call my play, and I’ll bail us out with a basket,'” Wojciechowski said. “Butler’s answer to adversity tonight was to play better defense. The way they answered adversity is the way you win. The way we tried to answer adversity is the way you lose.”

Butler’s first lead came with 8:24 remaining, and an Avery Woodson 3-pointer on the following possession extended the Bulldogs’ lead to four at the eight-minute mark. Once they relinquished the lead, the Golden Eagles began to wake up. A tip-in by Haanif Cheatham, 3-pointer by Andrew Rowsey and layup by Jajuan Johnson gave Marquette a three-point lead with 5:28 left in the game.

Butler responded to the Johnson basket with a nine-point run, and Marquette would fail to cut the lead to less than four points for the remaining 3:50. Martin and Kamar Baldwin put the game away for Butler, scoring a combined 13 points in the final five minutes.

A loss to the No. 12 team in the nation, especially on the road at a place like Hinkle Fieldhouse, is expected. It’s the circumstances that make this another frustrating outing for Marquette, who lost out on a signature win to boast on its currently shaky tournament resume.

The opponents don’t get easier for the Golden Eagles either, as they’ll travel to Omaha next Saturday to face No. 7 Creighton before a home date against No. 1 Villanova.