Marquette stuck to their M.O. of playing good teams close but still losing on Saturday when they fell to the fifth-ranked Orange, 76-71. Marquette led for most of the first half but eventually Syracuse's size took over.
In the first half Marquette held the lead due to hot three-point shooting and forcing turnovers. Syracuse turned the ball over 12 times; some forced by Marquette but many due to sloppy play. Sometimes they have a tendency to try and force fastbreaks and those lead to easy turnovers. It has been a problem all year they need to address.
Marquette hit six of their first 13 three-pointers and took a 34-27 lead following a three by Maurice Acker with 4:26 left in the half. But, as is often the case, they relied on the three. They missed their last four of the half and Syracuse went on a 7-0 run to tie it at 34.
The Orange had a huge size advantage on the Golden Eagles and that was the biggest difference in the game. Andy Rautins took just two shots and was held scoreless but it's not because he had an awful game. He wasn't looking for hit shots because they didn't need that. Syracuse averages nearly 18 three-point attempts per game but had just eight last night. Instead, they pounded the ball inside. Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku combined to go 11 for 12 for 24 points. And it wasn't just the big men getting to the bucket. Almost all of Syracuse's point came in the paint. Wesley Johnson, Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine were all getting to the rim and that usually led to an easy score or a trip to the free throw line.
The turning point came just under the 12:30 mark in the second half. Marquette's Jimmy Butler drove to the rim and his shot was "blocked" by Joseph. It was a clear case of goaltending but the refs missed it. It led to a fastbreak dunk by Onuaku. This was all part of a 14-3 run that put Syracuse up 62-47.
Wesley Johnson had one of his best games of the season. Hit hit nine of 15 shots for 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. He did have a season-high six turnovers but some of those rebounds he had were huge. He really showed his athletic ability grabbing the ball about two feet higher than the opposition.
Syracuse will move up one spot in the rankings after No. 1 ranked Texas lost twice this week. But they will face one of their toughest tests of the year when they play archrivals Georgetown on Monday.