North Carolina ends Marquette’s season with early exit in NCAA Tournament

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Olivier-Maxence Prosper lead Marquette men’s basketball in its 95-63 loss to North Carolina in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

FORT WORTH, Texas — Coming into Thursday’s first-round matchup, the Marquette men’s basketball team sought its first NCAA Tournament win since March 2013.

However, that will have to wait at least another year as Marquette fell to North Carolina 95-63 at Dickies Arena.

“It wasn’t our day. We did not play with the level of violence we needed to on the defensive-end to take away the things that North Carolina wanted,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “Thought early in the game they (North Carolina) were able to kind of get in the rhythm shooting the ball and then on the offensive end a lot of the good looks we got, we did not make.”

With the loss, the Golden Eagles have now lost seven of its final 11 games after its seven-game winning streak in January.

Smart said there is a lesson his team can take from its blowout loss.

“You have to lead on the defensive-end and that’s regardless of how things are going on offense,” Smart said. “We didn’t do a good enough job of that today.”

Redshirt first-year forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper came out firing for the Golden Eagles with back-to-back 3-pointers to give Marquette a 6-5 lead at the 17:41 mark.

Then both teams would go on close to four-minute scoreless droughts, before the Tar Heels went on a 13-2 run to take a 18-8 lead forcing Smart to call a timeout.

North Carolina continued to put it on Marquette taking a 27-10 lead at the 8:44 mark after graduate student forward Brady Manek hit the then-sixth 3-pointer of the half for the Tar Heels.

Both sides had to be separated at half court following a nose-to-nose encounter between Darryl Morsell and Caleb Love.

Behind Love’s six 3-pointers in the half, which tied the most 3-pointers in a NCAA Tournament game for North Carolina, the Tar Heels led 53-25 at halftime.

For North Carolina, the 28-point lead at halftime is the second largest in program history in a NCAA Tournament game. Meanwhile for the Golden Eagles, it was their largest halftime deficit of the season. It was previously 14 back on Dec. 4 against UCLA.

“We let our offense dictate our defense, instead of we should have done it the other way,” first-year guard Stevie Mitchell said. “We didn’t make as many shots as a group and let for them going in transition. They made some easy buckets in transition, which helped them get going.”

Redshirt first-year forward Justin Lewis went 0-for-8 from the field in the first 20 minutes. North Carolina recorded 11 offensive rebounds in the half compared to Marquette’s three.

The Golden Eagles also picked up three technical fouls in the half: one for Kur Kuath hanging on the rim after a dunk, another for Smart arguing about a missed travel call and the final for Morsell with his quarrel with Love.

Early into the second half, Lewis hit a 3-pointer for his first basket of the afternoon and to cut the Marquette deficit to 57-30.

North Carolina kept it raining from beyond the arc, taking a 67-33 lead on Manek’s fifth triple of the afternoon. At this point, the Tar Heels were on a stretch where they hit eight of 10 attempts from the field.

The Golden Eagles struggled offensively from the field Thursday afternoon, shooting 36% from the field and 26% from beyond the arc.

North Carolina handled the rebounding battle 52-37 led by Manek’s 11 and Armando Bacot’s 10. 15 of the Tar Heels’ rebounds came on the offensive glass.

“I knew we had a huge size advantage in the paint and just based on their statistics for the year, they weren’t a great rebounding team,” Bacot said. “That really gave us an advantage all throughout the game in the first half, doubling them in rebounds and just getting all the second-chance opportunities.”

Along with his 11 rebounds, Manek led the way for North Carolina in scoring with 28 points on 10-for-15 from the field. The Oklahoma transfer also finished with three assists and two blocks.

“You get guys that are threats on the floor and it really spaces out for everybody else,” Manek said.  ” I’m fortunate enough to be able to play with guards that like throwing me the ball so just finding the open spots and getting me those open looks, it really gets my confidence going.”

Prosper led the scoring for Marquette with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field and 4-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc. He also added three rebounds and a steal on the afternoon.

North Carolina forward Leaky Black played lock down defense on Lewis for majority of the afternoon, holding the BIG EAST Most Improved Player to just six points.

“Leaky Black is a heck of a defender. He’s as good as a defender as we’ve played against all year,” Smart said.” That being said, Justin missed a lot of shots he normally makes and we would take those shots for him any day of the week. It just wasn’t his day but, certainly, Leaky Black had a lot to do with that.”

Marquette ends its season with a 19-13 overall record and 11-8 BIG EAST record.

“We’re just getting started with what we’re trying to do at Marquette,” Smart said. “We’re going to use today as a major springboard moving forward.”

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