"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 10, 2005

Slipping Away

Marquette snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last night, losing 63-62 to TCU in Fort Worth. Plagued by foul trouble, MU led the game 51-43 when senior center Marcus Jackson fouled out, followed soon after by Steve Novak. Holding on to a two-point lead with 26 seconds to play, MU inexplicably left TCU sharpshooter Marcus Shropshire open -- and he promptly drained the three. MU responded with a turnover to end the game.

This is frustrating. Coming into the game, things seemed to be in place for an MU victory: Diener was healthy and starting, Chapman was healthy and starting, Novak had delivered steadily improving performances of late, and Amoroso had delivered back to back double-digit scoring games. Alas, none of this was enough. TCU coach Neil Dougherty made a great call following the timeout, freeing up Shropshire for the winning shot.

As great as TCU's execution was on this play, one has to question MU's inability to defend the obvious. To make matters worse, Shropshire was afforded an open look. Wide open. Shropshire joins Chris Rodgers, Rodney Carney, Darius Washington, Marcus Kinzer, Taylor Rochestie, Brendan Plavich and Sammy Mejia as guards who've turned in performances far above their seasonal averages against MU this season.

Despite injury and illness, MU came into this came at 16-6, in position to claim an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if it secured a few key wins. Now at 16-7 with only two road wins all year, this team is quickly reaching the point of nearly having to run the table to secure that bid - -- and with games against Cincy, Ville and DPU, that scenario is unlikely. If MU can't top TCU on the road despite a sizeable lead late in the game, closing the season winning five of its last six seems unlikely. MU has not been able to win a game it shouldn't have in the current campaign, something Crean's squad will need to do if its to get over the hump this year.

Its not time to look ahead to next season, but MU is teetering on the brink of becoming a 'wait until next year squad'. With senior leaders like Diener, Townsend and Jackson, this optimist will hold onto hope (irrational though it may be) that MU can finally win a few games it's not expected to down the stretch.

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