Second-half collapse leads to ugly loss to UConn at Fiserv Forum

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University of Connecticut’s Tyler Polley scored a career-best 22 points against Marquette Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

For the first time since the University of Connecticut’s return to the BIG EAST July 1, the Golden Eagles hosted the Huskies at Fiserv Forum. It was a complete reversal of the Georgetown game, as Marquette’s second-half collapse turned an 18-point lead into an 11-point defeat as UConn took home the 65-54 victory.

“At times this group can play really good basketball, but we haven’t shown the consistency needed in BIG EAST play to beat really good teams across the board,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “It’s something with our group we have to continue to work on and grow through. … I have to do a better job at coaching.”

Prior to the game, Marquette announced the decision to wear black uniforms to stand in solidarity with Jacob Blake and the Kenosha community. It was announced earlier Tuesday that no charges were filed against any officers involved in the shooting.

“Our program has decided to wear Black uniforms for tonight’s game in support of Jacob Blake, his family and the Kenosha community in reaction to the announcement earlier today. We are extremely disappointed involving Jacob’s shooting and we will continue to use our platform to advocate and fight for racial justice. This is another reminder that just because racial and social injustice hasn’t received as much attention recently, doesn’t mean thinned to fight against it has gone away,” the statement said.

Wojciechowski said his team feels very passionate about the Blake shooting and that is why they wanted to come together and make a statement.

“We were were going to wear the black uniforms regardless of the situation, whether he got charged or not,” redshirt senior Koby McEwen said. “If he got charged, it was in support of it. If justice wasn’t served, it was in protest of.”

Even though UConn started with an early 6-0 lead, Marquette quickly found its offense and went on a run of its own. After a D.J. Carton jumper at the 8:23 mark, MU led 18-10 and was on a 14-2 run. The Golden Eagles’ defense held the Huskies to a shooting percentage 29.4%.

That advantage extended to a 13-0 run when MU had its largest lead of the game at 20-10. With 3:04 remaining in the first half, Justin Lewis made it 26-16 with a one-handed slam.

At the half, Marquette was up 31-23 and was shooting 45.2% from the field, holding UConn to a 10-for-30 performance from the field and a 1-for-6 performance from deep. The Huskies owned the 21-14 rebound advantage, though. The Golden Eagles limited themselves to just four turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

First-year forward Dawson Garcia paced MU with nine points and six rebounds. Meanwhile, UConn’s Isaiah Whaley and Adama Sanogo tide for a team-high six points.

Out of the break, Marquette had an incredible start. The Golden Eagles led 43-25 with 15:39 remaining in the game. Marquette was shooting 80% from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range to start the second half.

From there, it was all downhill for MU.

“I didn’t think we showed the toughness (t0) respond to them turning up the energy like we need to do,” Wojciechowski said.

Even though Marquette was up 47-40 with 11:13 left, offensive struggles held down the Golden Eagles as Theo John had five points and Carton had two points for the remainder of the game.

UConn strung together a 23-4 run in less than eight minutes to regain its first lead since 10-9 at the beginning of the game to erase Marquette’s 18-point advantage, and the Golden Eagles were scoreless for almost four minutes. The Huskies were shooting 57% from 3-point range at that point.

It was senior forward Tyler Polley who showed up big in the second half for UConn, scoring a career-high 23 points.

“It was his best game of the year and he gave them a huge boost,” Wojciechowski said. “When a guy sees the ball go through the basket, you’ve to have greater urgency to close it out to him.”

For Marquette, Garcia was the only player in double digits with 20 points, and he also paced the team with 11 rebounds.

“Dawson had a really good offensive game,” Wojciechowski said. “He made good decisions, he played with great force and was a bright spot for us offensively.”

The Golden Eagles (6-6, 2-4 BIG EAST) have a break, due to their game at Villanova Jan. 8 being canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the program, until they host Providence Jan. 12 at 8 p.m.. The game will be telecasted on FS1.

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