#6 Louisville 62, #8 Marquette 58
Concerned about having to replace fallen Dominic James (out for the season with a foot injury) with junior guard Maurice Acker, the #6 Marquette Golden Eagles entered their game at #6 Louisville feeling short-handed.
Despite poor first half shooting by Jerel McNeal (2-13), Marquette found themselves only down by 3 at Louisville, 28-25, as the teams headed to their locker rooms at the break.
The closeness of the game was no doubt due to poor shot selection by the Cardinals, who, despite a big size advantage inside,took most of their shots from the perimeter. Terrence Williams hit 3 of 6 3-point attempts for Louisville, totaling 12 for the half.
That all began to change at the start of the second half. After clanking two outside jumpers, the Cardinals started to press full court, which resulted in turnovers and layups for Louisville, scoring eight straight points on four shots from dunking distance to take a 36-26 lead just three minutes in.
Having established a lead and inside dominance, however, the Cardinals continued to settle for long-range jumpers, allowing the Golden Eagles to close the gap, finally getting to 61-58 with 23.4 remaining on a Lazard Hayward trey.
But that was as close as Marquette would get, despite a no-call on a Marquette 3-point lean-in attempt down just 4 with 16 seconds left and then inexplicably not fouling. Louisville escaped, though their play was not at a level one would expect this time of year.
Both Louisville and short-handed Marquette could become early victims in either or both the Big East tourney or the NCAAs if they don't step up their decision-making and overall percentages.
While Marquette's 35% shooting was due mostly to McNeal's uncharacteristic 3-19 performance, Louisville's 44% effort from the floor and 42% (5-12) from the line, has to be a cause for concern for coach Rick Pitino.