Golden Eagles crumble against Butler

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Greg Elliott guards Kamar Baldwin of Butler (Photo by Helen Dudley).

Marquette picked a bad time for its most anemic performance of the year.

Needing a win to rebound from back-to-back losses to Xavier and Villanova, a frustrated, anxious Golden Eagle team (13-9, 4-6 BIG EAST) instead got blown out by the Butler Bulldogs (16-7, 6-4 BIG EAST), 92-72, in a game that sent most of the student section scurrying for the exits midway through the second half. It was Marquette’s worst home loss since Dec. 30, 2015.

A dejected Steve Wojciechowski watched most of the game in a pensive squat on Marquette’s sidelines, his frown growing more pronounced as he watched his team get beaten further and further into submission.

“Tonight, we looked like a jayvee team,” Wojo said.

A 19-4 Butler run in a six-minute stretch of the first half reduced the rest of the game to a mere formality. Marquette’s usual strategy of scoring its defensive problems away didn’t come close to working; there were a pair of four-plus minute stretches in the first half where Marquette didn’t drain a single field goal. The Golden Eagles finished the game with a respectable 46.2 percent from the field, which was offset by a paltry five-of-18 showing from three.

“We make (offense) look easy at times,” Wojo said. “Tonight, it wasn’t easy and we didn’t respond by doing other things.”

Somehow, things turned even worse for Marquette after halftime. A 43-28 Butler lead quickly grew after the Bulldogs hit five of their first seven shots of the half. Marquette, on the other hand, continued to stay ice cold, as they did not hit its first 3-pointer until the 10:20 mark, well after the game was out of reach. Butler led by as many as 30 points before easing up when the game was in hand.

Sophomore shooting guard Markus Howard was the only one that put any significant pressure on Butler. He had a team-high 26 points and accounted for a third of Marquette’s field goals.

Andrew Rowsey, normally Howard’s equal in the scoring department, was held without a point for the first time this year. He has only gone scoreless five times in his career. Two of those times were against Butler.

“With the one senior, who is obviously a huge cog to what we’re doing, not being on his game, I thought it really knocked us back,” Wojo said. “It didn’t just knock us back, it knocked us to the canvas and we weren’t able to get up.”

Somehow, the Bulldogs found a way to perform even better on offense than they did in their first game against Marquette, when they shot 59.4 percent from the field. A 60 percent shooting performance would have been more than enough to bury the Golden Eagles, even if their offense was at full strength.

Senior Tyler Wideman feasted on Marquette’s interior defense, scoring a career-high 23 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Fellow senior Kelan Martin scored 16 points and guard Kamar Baldwin added 15.

Marquette takes the court again Saturday, Feb. 3 against Providence. It will be the Golden Eagles’ last home game for over two weeks and is essentially a must-win. Last season, only four of the 68 teams that made the NCAA Tournament did so with a conference record of 9-9 or worse. For the Golden Eagles to finish better than 9-9, they would need to win six of their remaining eight games.

As he finished his press conference, Wojo sounded like the leader of a team under siege. “The waves keep coming; the waves are continuing to come to shore,” Wojo said. “You can’t stay too long in something that has happened that’s really good and you can’t stay too long in something that’s happened that’s obviously not very good.”