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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Men’s basketball blows 12-point lead, comes up short against No. 2 Kansas

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

For about half of Marquette’s bout against No. 2 Kansas Wednesday night, it looked like head coach Steve Wojciechowski had his second win at Marquette over a top-five team. The Golden Eagles had a 42-30 lead over Kansas in the National Invitation Tournament Season Tip-Off.

Then Marquette couldn’t hit a shot, missing its first 10 shots of the second half en route to a 77-68 loss to the Jayhawks in Brooklyn, New York.

Sam Hauser gave the Golden Eagles sparked Marquette’s second-half offense with the team’s first points of the half at the 10:45 mark, but Marquette could not undo Kansas’ 22-0 run at the end of the first half and first nine minutes of the second half.

“We were so slow, and they were so quick and had us on our heels,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “The second half was just a flip. We really defended.”

Marquette’s rise and collapse coincided with whether Kansas center Udoka Azubuike was on the floor. After Azubuike picked up his second foul in the first half, Marquette went on a 22-16 run.

“He’s such a physical presence around the basket,” Wojciechowski said. “He almost fouled our whole frontline out in the first half. We wanted to put him in as many ball screens as possible.”

With the 7-foot-1 post player available again in the second half, the Jayhawks outscored Marquette 26-8 in the paint.

Kansas’ other starting post player, Dedric Lawson, led the Jayhawks in scoring with 26 points on 9-for-16 shooting.

“Lawson played his best game from all the tapes that I watched,” Wojciechowski said. “When one of their stars isn’t having as good a game, they have different guys that step up.”

Even when Azubuike wasn’t on the floor, Marquette struggled to earn opportunities at the free-throw line. The team’s first shots from the charity stripe did not come until the 4:21 mark in the second half.

“We have to get to the free-throw line more,” Wojciechowski said. “That’s an area we need to work on more.”

No Marquette player scored more than seven points in the second half. Markus Howard and Sam Hauser had a combined 30 points, but only scored eight points in the second half.

Marquette went from 1.382 points per possession in the first half to .618 points per possession in the second half.

“We had some opportunities in the second half,” Wojciechowski said. “We just didn’t make the same decisions.”

The Golden Eagles finished the first half with 55 percent shooting from the field and 52 percent shooting from long range. It was the second time Marquette scored at least 45 points in one half.

“They’re so dangerous because everyone can shoot,” Self said.

The team’s bizarre first half came despite an early scare from Kansas senior Lagerald Vick, who scored 11 points in the first nine minutes of the game. Marquette limited the guard to five points in the remainder of the game.

“In the first half, I thought we were really physical defensively, and they didn’t get many points at the rim,” Wojciechowski said. “Vick kind of carried them to start.”

Wojciechowski highlighted turnovers as an area for improvement entering Wednesday’s contest, and his team responded. Marquette’s 13 turnovers were the fewest in a game since the season opener against University of Maryland-Baltimore County Nov. 6.

However, fifth-year head coach Wojciechowski was still not content with the team’s level of turnovers.

“We turned it over, and we gave them easy baskets which you can’t do against a team like Kansas,” Wojciechowski said.

The Golden Eagles will look to rebound from the loss in the NIT Season Tip-Off third-place game Friday against Louisville. Friday’s matchup will be the first between Marquette and Louisville since Louisville was in the BIG EAST.

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