You have to go all the way back to November 14th to find Marquette’s last (and only) true road win, when they went into State Farm Center in Champaign and secured a big win over #9 Illinois. The Golden Eagles had a very strong showing on a neutral floor at the Maui Invitational later that month, but since then, they have struggled to find success outside of the cozy confines of Fiserv Forum, where they remain undefeated. The script remained the same on Saturday in South Orange, NJ, as Marquette dropped a nailbiter to Seton Hall, 78-75.
Some of the commentary leading up to the game on Saturday revolved around two seemingly different disadvantages for Marquette and Seton Hall: Marquette was coming off a 7-day layoff from game action, resulting in only practice time, and Seton Hall having to play a quick turnaround, returning home after an upset road win over #23 Providence on Wednesday night. Showing no ill effects from the layoff, Marquette started the game off hot, flowing their offense through Oso Ighodaro in the paint and opening up outside shots for Kam Jones. Crisp ball movement led to multiple dunks inside for Oso, and Kam Jones hit two shots from deep as Marquette ran out to an early lead, reminiscent of the strong play that we saw in Maui. However, it wouldn't take long for Shaheen Holloway’s Pirates to adjust on the defensive end, as they were able to get back on transition defense and force Marquette into a physical half-court game.
An obvious success for Seton Hall in this half-court approach was taking away All-American and reigning Big East Player of the Year, Tyler Kolek. The typical Marquette offense sees Kolek driving into the paint to create offense for himself and others. Seton Hall kept Kolek out of the paint and on the perimeter, holding him to only two shots in the first half. Averaging over 15 points per game, Kolek would finish the day attempting six shots and hitting just one of them on his way to a season-low 5 points. The lack of scoring through Kolek did open up scoring opportunities for others, with big days from Oso Ighodaro (22/8/3) and David Joplin (15/3/0), but those successes wouldn't transfer to the defensive end for the Golden Eagles.
The story of the day for Seton Hall was their ability to win around the basket. Open layups and a lopsided rebound advantage undoubtedly won the game for the Pirates, but also created open shots from the outside, where Marquette’s help defense allowed Seton Hall to shoot an efficient 40% from beyond the arc. Senior guard Al-Amir Dawes took advantage with a game-high 23 points on 70% shooting and an almost-perfect 4-5 from three. Marquette still forced a bevy of turnovers and finished +12 in the category, but Seton Hall’s efficient offensive performance and physical half-court defense kept them just out in front into the waning minutes of the game.
An exciting finish seemed to be in store, with Marquette going on a late run to close the Seton Hall lead to 3 with just 6 seconds left, but the excitement crescendoed into a fizzle as Marquette threw away their chance by throwing away the ball on the inbounds play coming out of a timeout. It was mostly a day to forget for the Golden Eagles, which included a seemingly serious shoulder injury in the first half to sophomore guard Chase Ross. The defensive standout came back to the bench after halftime with his left arm in a sling. There has yet to be an update on his status at the time of this writing.
Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles will take what they’ve learned back to Fiserv Forum for a Big East clash against Butler next Wednesday at 9pm ET.