"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Defenseless Marquette falls at Villanova

Marquette kept its moral victory streak alive last night with a 75-70 loss on the road to the 12th-ranked Villanova Wildcats.

After falling behind by nine points at halftime and as many as 14 in the second half, the Warriors rallied to close the gap late. Regardless, show me a moral victory and I'll show you a losing team.

When all was said and done, Marquette was overwhelmed by Villanova's size, patience on offense, and its own poor defense which led to a remarkable free throw rate advantage for the Wildcats. Villanova connected on 29 of 33 free throws for the game while MU sank 13-14. Along the way Marquette struggled with foul trouble, including Jae Crowder's critical fifth foul with 2:32 remaining and the Warriors trailing by six.

The real story, as it always is for this team, was Marquette's porous defense. After a solid defensive performance in the first half where MU limited Wildcats to an eFG of just 43.3%, for the most part the Warriors' defensive effectiveness didn't make it out of the locker room after the break.

In the second half Marquette allowed an astonishing 1.23 points per possession (ppp) and an eFG% of 56%. Factor in Villanova's second half free throw rate (FTR) of 1.33 and it's easy to see why MU could not get closer than three points in the game's final 1o minutes. FTR is the ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts.

Still up for debate was a stretch in the second half where Buzz shook things up and went to a full court press. Between the 10 minute mark and 4:58 mark in the second half, this defensive scheme forced four Villanova turnovers, 25% of the Wildcats' turnover total for the game. Perhaps more importantly the pressure led to easier buckets for MU. Marquette whittled the Villanova lead from 14 points down to just three with five minutes to play, but was unable to overcome the deficit as the Wildcats lived at the line in the game's final minutes.

While the second half defensive adjustment showed promise during this five-minute spurt, MU's inability to string together a series of stops remains a derailment factor for this team. Ultimately the press was modestly encouraging but with MU's foul issues last night the benefits were somewhat mitigated to say the least. The overall defensive performance was still lacking.

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