NCAA Division I Sports
NCAA Division I Sports
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The Marquette Golden Eagles' 24-game home non-conference winning streak came to a screeching halt Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center, and they didn't need to bother watching the tape afterward for the reason why.
Their 37.9% shooting was bad enough, but it was the defensive effort - or lack thereof - in the second half that wound up costing the Golden Eagles. They allowed North Carolina State to shoot a ridiculous 71.4% over the final 20 minutes before ultimately falling, 77-73, in front of a displeased crowd of 15,803.
Junior forward Tracy Smith scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half to lead the Wolfpack, which hit 20 of 28 shots, including all four of its three-point attempts. The team figured to be ripe for the picking, considering it was coming off a surprising home loss to Northwestern earlier in the week, but instead bounced back and left Milwaukee with a quality win under its belt.
MU, meanwhile, was left searching for answers just three days before its annual intra-city showdown with UW-Milwaukee.
“We were just pressing, trying to outscore them rather than get stops,” said coach Buzz Williams, who called his team's second-half performance the worst he'd presided over in his 43 games at MU. “They got the ball where they wanted to get it, they got great paint touches, they ran every play they wanted to run in the second half, and for the most part they scored nearly every time.”
Junior forward Jimmy Butler had 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead four players in double figures for MU (6-2), which lost despite beating the Wolfpack (6-1) on the boards by nine, with nearly half of those (20) coming on the offensive end.
It was MU's second loss in as many games to an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent it led by double digits early in the second half. And while the setback to Florida State in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic stung because of what was at stake, this one was even tougher to swallow because of the total collapse - even if the players weren't readily admitting it.
“I take a loss as a loss,” said Butler. “It could be vs. anybody, home or away. The same thing happened (a blown second-half lead), but a loss is a loss.”
MU, which committed five turnovers in the first half in building a 36-25 lead, matched that total in the opening 6 minutes of the second half to allow N.C. State back in the game. The Wolfpack took full advantage, going on a 16-4 run to take its first lead since early in the game at 41-40 with 13 minutes 29 seconds remaining.
The advantage changed hands six times until the Golden Eagles, unable to get anything going offensively or string together any stops defensively, fell behind for good.
The Wolfpack was able to open its lead to 54-47 after a Josh Davis layup with 8:24 left, and then used a 9-2 run sparked by five points from Javier Gonzalez to stretch it to 63-49. Back-to-back threes by David Cubillan and Maurice Acker briefly gave the Golden Eagles some life, as did some spotty free-throw shooting by the Wolfpack down the stretch, but it still wasn't enough.
“I would pay to find out,” said Williams when asked how the Golden Eagles so completely lost momentum coming out of the locker room at intermission. “They started really strong in the first 4 minutes of the second half, which is typically when we play our best. They played extremely well.”
All told, N.C. State outscored MU, 52-37, in the second half.
“It's tough, just knowing that a team shot 72% against us,” said Acker. “That basically comes down to us not guarding. Not guarding the ball, letting them do what they wanted to do, and that was getting the ball in the post and attacking us off the bounce.”
The Golden Eagles, playing without freshman forward Jeronne Maymon (hip pointer), led by nine at halftime on the strength of 12 offensive rebounds and 4-for-9 shooting from three-point range.
Lazar Hayward wound up with15 points, Darius Johnson-Odom 11 and Acker 10 for MU, while Gonzalez had 15 and Dennis Horner 13 for N.C. State.
The last non-Big East Conference foe to win on Al McGuire Court was Wisconsin, which beat MU, 70-66, on Dec. 9, 2006.
Williams, who played all five of his starters at least 30 minutes, termed Maymon as day-to-day.