Marquette can’t handle Creighton’s defense in BIG EAST Tournament loss

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Redshirt first-year forward Justin Lewis (10) heads to the basket in Marquette men’s basketball’s 74-63 loss to Creighton in the BIG EAST Tournament Quarterfinals March 10 at Madison Square Garden. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

NEW YORK –  Marquette men’s basketball will have to wait another year for its first BIG EAST Tournament title after falling 74-63 to Creighton in the quarterfinals Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

“Our guys did a really good fighting to come back, cut the lead down to two I think we had an offensive possession where we could have tied it,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “But we didn’t do a good enough job with the attention to the details that it took to beat Creighton on both ends of the floor.”

Both teams traded blows for a majority of the first half, with neither holding a lead larger than six points.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper brought Marquette within one at 27-26 with his second 3-pointer of the opening half. The Golden Eagles then turned over the ball with 36.1 seconds left, to which Creighton took advantage of with a layup from Ryan Kalkbrenner.

Marquette entered halftime down 29-26 after Justin Lewis’ 3-point attempt rounded out at the buzzer.

The Golden Eagles turned over the ball 10 times in the first 20 minutes of action.

“Based on our play, it was kind of like nervousness,” Lewis said. “Not wanting to mess up, wanting to play a perfect game.”

Coming out of halftime, Creighton opened up the second half making eight of its nine first shots.

Prosper sparked a personal 3-0 run that got Marquette within 39-34, but Creighton would then jump out to its largest lead of the afternoon at 46-34 on a 7-0 run forcing Smart to call a timeout.

The Golden Eagles continued to chip away, creating defensive stops while putting a 7-0 run, that consisted of a step back 3-pointer from Kam Jones, which forced Creighton to call a timeout.

The Blue Jays responded with three straight baskets to regain a 10-point cushion.

Graduate student guard Darryl Morsell would stir up a personal 7-0 run to bring Marquette within five, 60-55 with 7:32 left to go. Then O’Connell hit a 3-pointer for the Bluejays to quite the Golden Eagles run.

“He’s as good as there is at making you pay when you’re not where you need to be,” Smart said.

A three-point run from redshirt junior guard Greg Elliott would then bring the deficit within two with 3:04 remaining, before Creighton finished the contest on an 11-2 run to advance to tomorrow’s semifinals.

“Our guys showed a lot of fight down the stretch but Creighton’s a good team,” Smart said. “They made a lot of good plays. Made some back-breaking shots when we cut the lead down. Got to give them a lot of credit.”

Creighton scored 17 points off of Marquette’s 15 turnovers on the afternoon.

Among the Bluejays five starters, four of them finished in double figures. Hawkins led Creighton with 18 points, on 7-for-12 shooting from the field, six rebounds, three steals and an assist.

Kalkbrenner, the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, added 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.

“In a strange way, he’s 7’1″ but he’s just kind of quicker to the ball on some of those plays,” Smart said. “They shot one off the bottom of the backboard, he was just quicker, got it, was able to either score or draw a foul. He’s played really, really well against us.”

Smart said Trey Alexander hurt Marquette in “different ways” with his nine points, eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block.

Morsell led the Marquette with 18 points, a steal, a block, a rebound and an assist. Lewis followed with 17 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block.

The Golden Eagles (20-11, 12-7 BIG EAST) will now wait to see where the NCAA Selection Committee will place them in the NCAA Tournament. The Field of 68 will be announced Sunday at 5 pm CST on CBS.

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at john.leuzzi@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU.