Marquette vs. Idaho State: What the Heck Just Happened?
As I went through my day and headed down to the Bradley Center to the Marquette-Idaho State game last night, I joked to virtually anyone I talked to that I hoped things would go a bit more smoothly than they did in the Hilldale College game that I thankfully missed on Friday night. Obviously, they didn’t go any better, and may have gone even worse, as evidenced by the fact that the Idaho State Bengels took the Golden Eagles to overtime. It was truly a brutal night for Marquette, and for anyone rooting for them. On the upside, the drama-to-price ratio for my ticket was way higher than I had expected, making this game a nice early season value. In the future, though, I’d like my non-conference tickets to seem a bit more worthless. Game notes below:
1) I’m not digging the new video that plays during player introductions. This year, there’s a shot of each player showing his best game face, and then crossing his arms. The ball slaps of two seasons ago were, at least in my mind, much more effective. And I definitely miss last year’s cheesy video of giant, godzilla-like Marquette players wandering around Milwaukee and then heading to the Bradley Center (I was particularly fond of Steve Novak’s fake checking of his watch next to the Allen-Bradley Clock). This year’s video just lacks something.
2) As usual, going to the game with my friend Beau was pure fun. Beau likes to print off rosters and do some research on all opposing teams before going to a game, so it’s always enjoyable to make fun of him as he’s shuffling pieces of paper before the game. Even better than that, he’s gotten into stats this year and has created something called "Beau’s Player Efficiency Rating" from an amalgamation of stats. I don’t understand the Rating, and I don’t plan on making any effort to understand the rating. However, if Beau keeps doing this, and he’ll allow me to use them, I fully plan on making his ratings and every-other-week feature here.
3) I don’t want to sound like I’m jumping off any bandwagons here, so I’ll simply note that Marquette’s inability to come up with a viable play out of a time out at a key moment in a game has always been one of my pet peeves. They did nothing to change my view tonight, tossing passes passively around the perimeter coming out of most time-outs, and settling for long three-point shots (a type of shot that wasn’t exactly falling last night even when it wasn’t forced).
4) If I had any doubt about the role of Marquette’s big men in the offense, they were erased when Jamil Lott received a pass on the block with no one guarding him, and without even looking at the basket, kicked the ball back out to a guard.
5) No halftime games last night. That was definitely disappointing. If I’m going to sit through a game where Marquette struggles to beat Idaho State, I should at least be allowed to laugh as some hapless sophomore makes a futile attempt to win an RV.
6) At one point late in the game when things were frighteningly still in doubt, Ousmane Barro stepped to the foul line, much to the chagrin of all of my friends who I was attending the game with. Honestly, though, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more confident that a player would make his shots, and announced this fact to my friends. Aside from the fact that Barro was having a decent, workman-like game and seemed like he could be the right guy to give Marquette a pick-me-up, Barro’s usual lack of prowess at the line actually made him the perfect guy to take a pair of foul shots. When you’re watching what could only be termed a bizarro game, you’re going to want the most bizarre option heading to the line to shoot.
7) If one sequence of events summed up the night, it was Jerel McNeal’s trip to the foul line in the closing seconds of regulation. After some amped up defense had brought the Golden Eagles within one point of the Bengels, McNeal rebounded a putback, was fouled shooting, and headed to the line to shoot before being forced to leave the floor due to blood on his uniform. Marquette was then able to designate anyone from the bench to take the shots which could all but ice the game. Dan Fitzgerald was the choice, and promptly clanked his first foul shot off of the rim, before tying the game with his second shot. You know you’re having a bad night when a guy that you bring in specifically to shoot foul shots can only make one of two.
8) Weak call by the PA announcer on explaining the aforementioned Fitzgerald for McNeal substitution. When it became apparent that the substitution needed to take place, the announcer said something to the effect of "By rule, McNeal must return to the sidelines and a substitution must be made for him." Of course, the rule which required this was never announced, so the crowd received no real information about the issue. Granted, any reasonable basketball fan would be able to deduce what was going on, but as I’ve found over the past few years, not all attendees of these games are reasonable basketball fans.
9) Marquette’s problems last night boiled down to one thing–shooting. The were beating Idaho State in terms of rebounding, turnovers and fouls, but their shooting performance was among the worst I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t just the low percentage of shots that they connected on–it was the horrific manner in which they were missing. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a single game where so many shots totally failed to hit iron or glass. I know that the strong point of Marquette’s guards isn’t shooting, but I always thought them to be adequate from long range. It sure didn’t feel like that last night, though.
So I left the game about as concerned about a team as I’ve ever been. This one’s a bit more troubling than UWM’s struggles. UWM’s playing with all new guys. Marquette may be young in terms of age, but the core of their lineup has been through everything before. Here’s hoping that they remember how to get back on track. I’m not in total panic mode yet (though I’m close). After all, Marquette was out rebounded during both of its exhibition games last year, and eventually pulled through. But you’d be a fool if two games like Hillsdale and Idaho State didn’t scare you.