The Marquette Golden Eagles handed the Kansas State Wildcats their first basketball loss of the season, 83-71 on Saturday at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Marquette (6-2) picked up its best victory of the year and No. 12 K-State (6-1) will fall in the national polls.
Here are some thoughts from the game:
For the first time, it’s fair for to wonder if the K-State basketball team was a smidge overrated with its lofty preseason ranking.
The Wildcats didn’t look like a top 25 team against Marquette.
They were also rarely impressive during their 6-0 start. Yes, they won all of their games and even claimed a tournament trophy at the Paradise Jam, but none of those victories came against quality competition. And some of them were closer than expected.
Marquette was, by far, the best opponent K-State has faced this season and the Golden Eagles proved it. Markus Howard ran circles around the Wildcats by scoring 45 points on a mere 17 shots. He found success near the rim and from the outside. He also got to the free-throw line 21 times and made all but two of those shots. K-State had no answers for him.
This was also K-State’s first true road game of the season and it struggled with the environment, particularly the officiating.
“You’ve got to give credit to them,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said of Marquette. “They played with great energy and the crowd got into it. Obviously, Howard was really good and we had no answers for them.”
Makol Mawien and Dean Wade both fouled out, while Cartier Diarra and Barry Brown were in foul trouble early. Brown, a senior guard, picked up three quick fouls and spent most of the first half on the bench. That really seemed to throw off the Wildcats.
K-State got off to a decent enough start and led 20-17, but the team was hardly competitive the rest of the way. Marquette led 44-33 at halftime and never let up in the second half. The Wildcats never pulled within single digits again.
Weber could sense a poor performance coming. He said the practices leading up to Saturday’s game were far from impressive.
“I told them several times over the last few weeks, ‘I don’t want you to learn from a loss,’ but maybe it’s a good thing in the long run,” Weber said. “Maybe we will do things better in practice.”
Markus Howard put on a show
You have to tip your hat to Marquette’s top performer on Saturday. Howard delivered a tremendous personal game. His 45 points were the second-most by any K-State opponent, trailing only the 51 points by Doremus Bennerman of Siena on March 30, 1994 in the NIT.
That he scored that many points on 17 shots made his outing even more impressive. The Golden Eagles moved the ball around and got him open looks. When that didn’t work, he attacked the rim and K-State couldn’t avoid fouling him.
“Howard was good,” Weber said. “He was very clever today. Maybe we were a little too worried about their threes. Wejust allowed too deep of penetration and needed better close outs.”
The Wildcats will see many more aggressive, capable scorers this season. They will need to learn from this experience and play tougher defense the next time they face an elite scorer.
Dean Wade could have done more
So could everyone else on the roster. Makol Mawien didn’t grab a single rebound and Brown only scored seven points. But Wade is K-State’s leading scorer and best overall player. He missed a golden opportunity to take charge and keep the Wildcats in the game when Brown went to the bench early in the first half.
Had he aggressively fired away when he was open and matched Howard a little better in the early going, things might have been different.
Instead, he didn’t score until the final moments of the first half and finished with 11 points on seven shots. That left the Wildcats fighting from behind the entire second half.
He will need to get back to his aggressive self when K-State next plays at Tulsa (3:30 p.m. next Saturday), along with everyone else on the roster.
“We have got to get better in practice,” Weber said. “This is a team that beat us last year in Wichita. Now we are going to their place. We have to go back, I don’t want to say to the drawing board, but we have to learn from it. Now are you going to do something about. You learn, you are embarrassed, you didn’t play well, now you have to do something about it. That’s the big key.”