Milwaukee, WI – Marquette and Butler met for an early afternoon tip on Saturday at Fiserv Forum. Marquette was coming off a tough 83-82 loss at Creighton and looked to get back to their winning ways against the Bulldogs. Butler is also coming off a loss at Seton Hall on Wednesday. The first matchup between these Big East opponents ended with an 85-79 win for Butler as the Bulldogs were hot from outside, hitting 13 3-pointers on the way to their win. The 3-point line was not as kind for Butler in this one as Marquette squeaked past them in the second half and claimed a 64-56 victory.
To start the game, Butler had come out looking to have the same success it did in the previous contest with Marquette from the perimeter. The Bulldogs connected on three 3-pointers to take a 15-12 lead at the 16:00 under TV timeout. From there, Butler had continued shooting the ball well and took a 23-14 advantage within the following minutes off multiple easy drives to the basket. Butler’s frontcourt of Bryce Nze and Bryce Golden presented a challenge to Marquette with their size and basketball IQ around the rim. The lackadaisical defense from the Golden Eagles caused Shaka Smart to call a timeout to wake his team up. Smart’s team responded with more defensive intensity on a full court trap and collected two consecutive turnovers which led to an 8-0 run for Marquette. Both teams cooled off in the final eight minutes of action in the half and the Bulldogs entered the break with a 33-30 lead. Butler did a nice job of keying in on Marquette forward Justin Lewis, who was held scoreless and shot 0-of-6 from the floor in the half. The Golden Eagles bench picked up the slack and kept them within striking distance, scoring half of the 30 first half points.
The Bulldogs opened up the second half with solid ball movement and Golden flushed down a two hand jam that gave his team a quick start, as it did to begin the first half. Lewis then got out of his first half slump and scored his first points of the game just before the 16:00 minute mark. Marquette freshman guard Tyler Kolek hit a 3-pointer to get the crowd ignited again. The Bulldogs answered with a Nze dunk, as both teams opened the second half neck and neck. Butler would hold on to the lead for most of this game until a layup by Darryl Morsell finally gave Marquette the lead (48-47). Morsell had also been quiet up to this point but became more assertive with the ball in his hands, sensing that his team needed him to score if they were going to win. Lewis followed that same mentality and extended the lead for Marquette with a right-handed jam off a v-cut. The spark from Marquette duo translated on the defensive side as they created havoc and forced more turnovers from Butler. Nze picked up his fourth foul of the game at the 5:40 mark, and the 6’7” forward had to sit on the bench a bit prematurely. The Bulldogs stayed in the game though and forced their way to the free throw line, silencing the home crowd and keeping their deficit within a few points. However, there was only so much Butler could do defensively and their inability to hit open jump shots would eventually catch up to them. Marquette sealed the deal with a Morsell 3-pointer off a drive and kick from Kolek. Lewis would then come up with an offensive putback dunk at the 2:32 mark. The Golden Eagles embodied the defensive intensity and philosophy that Smart preaches and as a result, picked up the season split against Butler with a 64-56 win.
Marquette was led by Morsell who finished with 16 points on 5-of-11 from the floor. Lewis made up for his poor first half performance and contributed 11 points and seven rebounds. The Bulldogs had an all-around game from Nze (11 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists). The main statistical difference between both squads was Marquette’s 22 points off turnovers, compared to just four for Butler. The Bulldogs also shot 4-of-23 from 3-point territory and didn’t hit one in the second half.
Marquette (18-10, 10-7) remains in fifth place in the Big East and now head to Chicago to face DePaul on Wednesday. Butler (13-17, 6-13) will have a bit of time to regroup, as they won’t play until next Saturday against Villanova in their last regular season game.