Men’s basketball suffers first loss at Fiserv Forum despite late comeback

With 11 seconds left Tuesday night against St. John’s, star guard Markus Howard had a chance to hit a game-winning shot to keep the Golden Eagles undefeated at Fiserv Forum.

Instead, the pump-fake to draw a foul and off-balance shot resulted in an air-ball, a St. John’s rebound and the first Marquette loss at Fiserv Forum.

“He got a good look,” junior forward Sam Hauser said. “It just didn’t fall.”

Sophomore Theo John fouled St. John’s forward Marvin Clark II and Clark missed both free throws, but Sam Hauser’s full-court heave was off the mark, resulting in the 70-69 loss.

Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said the plan was not to have Howard attempt a 3-pointer as the final play, but the timeout changed that plan.

“We didn’t want to take a timeout,” Wojciechowski said. “We wanted to get the ball up the floor and try to drive the ball without calling a timeout and allowing their defense to set, but there was confusion.”

Marquette outscored St. John’s 35-23 in the last 15:15 of the game, but late miscues and early offensive woes proved to be too much for the Golden Eagles.

“You’re going to miss shots. That’s part of the game. It’s not about the missed shots,” Wojciechowski said. “It’s about the things that we can control.”

The Golden Eagles came within a point of the Red Storm, trailing 63-62 with three minutes remaining. Then redshirt junior Sacar Anim fouled St. John’s star Shamorie Ponds on a 3-point shot. Ponds, an 83-percent free-throw shooter, hit all three free throws.

Marquette had other opportunities in the final five minutes to stanch St. John’s upset bid, but when Marquette made inroads against St. John’s, a missed free throw or bad defensive play stopped the momentum.

The Golden Eagles were 8 of 13 from the free-throw line in the second half, a significant step down from their 78-percent free-throw shooting entering Tuesday’s game.

“The things that we should be able to control … we’ve not done a good job of that,” Wojciechowski said.

If Howard’s shot went in, Marquette would’ve had its biggest comeback win this season.

“We played defense at a higher level, and we moved the ball more on offense and got better shots,” Sam Hauser said.

Freshman forward Joey Hauser found Anim open in the corner, which gave Marquette a brief lead with 32 seconds remaining. That was the Golden Eagles’ first lead since it was 4-2.

“It was big. Obviously if it was a game-winning shot it would have been bigger,” Wojciechowski said.

The 69-68 lead didn’t last long, though. Ponds responded with a layup with 16 seconds remaining to give the Red Storm a 70-69 lead.

“We wanted anyone but Ponds shooting,” Wojciechowski said. “We didn’t do that. That can’t happen.”

Howard then missed the potential game-winner with two seconds left.

The loss came after a nightmarish first half for Marquette. The Golden Eagles missed 13 of its first 18 shots and missed its first 10 3-point attempts. Howard, who entered play leading the BIG EAST in scoring with 25 points per game, missed his first six shots.

Howard’s first points came on a three a couple feet behind the 3-point line at the 6:04 mark. He scored nine points in the next 80 seconds to slash St. John’s lead from 12 to five.

That spurt from Howard quickly fizzled out, as Marquette finished the first half with 38-percent shooting from the field and 23-percent shooting from 3-point range.

Meanwhile, Marquette allowed 53-percent shooting before halftime. St. John’s guard Mustapha Heron had as many 3-pointers in the first half as the entire Marquette team.

“When we’re locked in, we’re a good team,” Wojciechowski said. “I don’t think we played hard in the first half. I didn’t think we had the spirit and connectivity and fight that this team has shown.”

Ponds led the Red Storm with 28 points, 19 of which came in the second half. Fellow Red Storm guard Justin Simon scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

The Golden Eagles do not have much time to dwell on the loss, hosting No. 14 Villanova Saturday afternoon. It is Marquette’s first game against a ranked opponent since Dec. 21.

Until then, there’s not much doubt about who will accept responsibility for this shortfall.

“They were worthy of winning, and we were not,” Wojciechowski said. “Ultimately that’s my responsibility, so I have to do a better job.”