By Mark Strotman Special to FOXSportsWisconsin.com
NEW YORK — Slow starts have plagued the Marquette Golden Eagles all year. Most of the time, the team has been able to regroup, find its rhythm and work toward a comeback.
Thursday night was a different story.
Article continues below ...
The Golden Eagles committed a season-high 26 turnovers and were unable to overcome a 15-point first-half deficit during its 84-71 loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.
Louisville point guard Peyton Siva put his stamp on the game from the opening tip. His quickness and active hands gave the usually sure-handed Junior Cadougan trouble all evening. Cadougan, who entered Thursday’s game tied for fifth in the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio, committed turnovers on Marquette’s first and fourth possessions. He finished the first half with a career-worst seven giveaways.
“I just wasn’t myself today,” Cadougan said. “I disappointed my team by having so many turnovers. I didn’t run the offense at all. A big reason why we lost tonight was my fault.”
Most of his miscues occurred before he reached the halfcourt line. Louisville had 16 points off turnovers in the opening half, which helped build a double-digit lead by intermission. The Cardinals had not scored more than 61 points in any of their last five games, but Thursday they had 50 by halftime.
Marquette had eight turnovers in the first nine minutes, and Cadougan said he and the rest of the team struggled to get back into rhythm after that.
“It’s tough, but you have to be mentally strong to play through those turnovers and help your team win,” Cadougan said. “It just wasn’t flowing today. Our rhythm, our pace, our purpose. It wasn’t there.”
Sophomore Vander Blue, who committed six turnovers, agreed.
“It’s more just having confidence to know that you can handle the pressure,” Blue said. “It was more just us not being ourselves. We weren’t clicking. We weren’t playing how we usually play.”
Cadougan finished with a career-worst eight turnovers and accounted for five of Marquette’s 11 assists. Entering Thursday, Marquette led the Big East with nearly 17 assists per game and had assisted on more than 65 percent of its made baskets in conference play.
But Louisville’s stifling full-court pressure and active zone defense forced Marquette out of position on many offensive sets. Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder said the team attempted to make up for the slow start in a hurry, instead of regrouping in half-court sets to cancel the Cardinals’ hectic press.
“We like to play fast, and once they put a little pressure on us, we try to speed it up just a little too much,” Crowder said. “You have to take your chances with that and, unfortunately, it backfired on us. A lot of guys try to make plays once they feel pressure, and that’s the opposite of what we wanted to do at the time.”
In the seven Big East games Marquette had faced at least a nine-point first-half deficit and won, Crowder said the team eventually slowed the tempo and found its rhythm. Thursday night, that was not the case.
“We never got into that groove that we usually play with,” Crowder said. “Tonight, it was the same thing that happened at Cincinnati, and it showed.”
On Feb. 29, Marquette committed 17 turnovers in a 72-61 road loss to Cincinnati, and the Golden Eagles will now enter the NCAA Tournament having lost two of their last three games. But Crowder insisted the team will continue to push the pace like it has all season, knowing turnovers are a risk.
“We need to be disciplined and do what got us to this point,” he said. “At the NCAA tournament, you have to play unselfish because you tend to do things out of your character. And within what we do, that’ll help us out if we’re disciplined.”