Foul trouble, sloppy defense lead to 17-point loss in BIG EAST opener

Markus+Howard+%280%29+is+closely+guarded+by+Mitch+Ballock+%2824%29+in+Marquette%27s+66-60+loss+to+Creighton+at+Fiserv+Forum+March+3.+

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Markus Howard (0) is closely guarded by Mitch Ballock (24) in Marquette's 66-60 loss to Creighton at Fiserv Forum March 3.

When Markus Howard was in Omaha last, he set a BIG EAST record of 53 points to lead Marquette to a 106-104 overtime win. In the new decade, MU’s defense completely fell apart as the Bluejays ended the Golden Eagles’ five-game winning streak with a 92-75 victory in the team’s conference opener Wednesday night.

It was all Creighton from the start. In the first five minutes, the Bluejays jumped out to a quick 13-7 advantage.

Less than nine minutes into the game, both Koby McEwen and Jayce Johnson had already committed two fouls. McEwen’s both came within 53 seconds of each other.

Though Marquette would cut the lead to 22-18, that prompted a 10-2 run from Creighton. The Bluejays were efficient shutting down Howard, who didn’t make a shot until his jumper at the 3:40 mark, which sparked nine straight points for the senior.

At the break, Creighton possessed a 48-38 advantage, led by the Bluejays’ guards Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitch Ballock and Marcus Zegarowski. The Golden Eagles’ defense had no answers for the trio, which combined for 35 points on 13-for-23 shooting and two turnovers.

Coming out of the half, Marquette was able to cut the lead down to six. After a 5-0 run, Creighton maintained a 55-44 advantage at the 16:59 mark. That prompted MU head coach Steve Wojciechowski to call a timeout.

The Golden Eagles continued to struggle defensively, which extended the Bluejays’ lead. MU ended the game with 16 turnovers, leading to 17 CU points. By the 11:22 mark, the Bluejays were up 75-54.

As the game progressed, so did Marquette’s scoring woes. MU shot 42% from the field compared to CU’s 50%.

The Bluejays’ starters came out near the end of the match. Though the Golden Eagles ended the game on a 9-0 run, it was not enough to cut the deficit.

Even though he tied for a team-high 18 points, Howard was limited to 6-for-16 shooting, going 2-for-7 from three. He also had four personal fouls along with Johnson and McEwen.

After missing the last game with a right thumb sprain, McEwen made no impact, playing 18 minutes and committing four turnovers, four personal fouls and shot 0-for-2 from the field.

With Howard and McEwen, MU relied on 21 bench points, including eight points and six rebounds from Ed Morrow.

For Creighton, there were five players in double digits: Ballock led the team with 24 points, Alexander chipped in 21 points, Jefferson finished with 17, Zegarowski added 16 and Mahoney pitched in 10. The guard trio of Alexander, Ballock and Zegarowski combined for seven of the team’s nine 3-pointers.

Even though Marquette claimed the 42-34 rebound advantage, poor ball handling resulted in Creighton’s 10 steals, 17 points on the fast break and 38 points in the paint.

Marquette (10-3, 0-1 BIG EAST) looks for its first conference win and faces its biggest test in hosting No. 10 Villanova at Fiserv Forum Saturday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at isabel.comerford@marquette.edu or on Twitter @zoe_comerford.