Breaks haven't gone Marquette's way in Big East play

Lazar Hayward (18.9 ppg) and the Golden Eagles are looking for their first Big East victory.
Lazar Hayward (18.9 ppg) and the Golden Eagles are looking for their first Big East victory. (Darren Hauck/associated Press)
By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Against West Virginia, it was Da'Sean Butler's 20-foot jump shot with two seconds remaining that handed Marquette a 63-62 loss in its Big East opener.

Four nights later, a clutch jumper by Villanova's Scottie Reynolds with 18 seconds left relegated the Golden Eagles to a second defeat in league play, 74-72.

As Marquette (9-5, 0-2) prepares to host Georgetown on Wednesday, it's mired near the bottom of the Big East standings, with only DePaul in worse shape.

Georgetown sits at the top, with an 11-1, 2-0 record and No. 12 national ranking.

But both coaches know that the gulf between their squads isn't nearly as great as the standings suggests. In a league as competitive as the Big East, razor-thin margins and last-second heroics often spell the difference.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III is stressing the point to ensure that his Hoyas take nothing for granted on their road trip to Milwaukee.

"Marquette is playing well right now and played extremely well in those two [Big East] games," Thompson said. "In both games, very difficult shots by the opposition is the only reason they aren't 2-0 and at the top of the heap."

And Marquette Coach Buzz Williams is using the close, back-to-back losses (both to top 10 teams) to remind the Golden Eagles that their fate remains in their hands as long as they keep working hard and recognize the value of every possession.

"You always remember what happened at the end [of a game] better than what happened at the beginning or the middle," says Williams, in his second year as Marquette's coach.

"Butler hit a great shot to beat us at West Virginia. Scottie Reynolds hit a great shot to beat us here. Those are embedded in your mind, but they aren't especially the reason we lost. That's the last reason we lost. But you can go back to the beginning of each game and see multiple possessions [that could have gone differently]. Yes, we only lost by one possession. But which possession was it?"

While every college team is forced to rebuild itself anew each fall, Marquette's task was bigger than most after losing four starters -- and its top three scorers -- from last season's senior-laden squad.

"We miss them offensively," Williams said, referencing last season's three-guard nucleus of Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews and Dominic James. "We miss their experience and their toughness. And we miss them defensively."

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