By Nina Mandell
It might have been easy for Marquette to give up after senior leader Dominic James went down with a broken foot in a recent game against Connecticut. But someone forgot to tell that to the Golden Eagles, who put up a strong fight against favored Louisville today, losing by only four points in a game that could have been much, much worse...
So what went wrong for Marquette? For starters, Jerel McNeal couldn't buy a basket, managing just 10 points on 3 for 19 shooting, as it was left to Wesley Matthews to lead the Golden Eagles with 19 points.
As for James? While his absence on the court was noticable, he was still there.
"He's coaching the team now, he's Coach James," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "He had some ideas for me."
But the Cards, who shot a more respectable 43 percent behind Andre McGee (16 points), Terrence Williams (14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) and Louisville weren't about to give up one for solidarity as Louisville held the Golden Eagles to 34-percent shooting from the floor.
Louisville moved up to half a game behind UConn in the race for the top of the Big East with a 62-58 win.
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What the game did prove, though, was that Marquette shouldn't be counted out. In their first game without their senior leader, the Golden Eagles shot an atrocious percentage from the floor and missed what could be a game-closing three with only a few seconds left. A few different shots and a few more stops and they could be celebrating today -- and that's something to keep in mind before marking them for fallen.
"We should have won, that's how we feel," Matthews said. "We don't feel any reason we should have lost this game. The ball didn't bounce our way at the end. A couple of plays went their way. We still had a chance."
In other action today ...
Border War falls short of expectations: You would expect this in the past few years of the Border War. A one-sided game, filled with perfectly executed fast breaks by Kansas to jump out to an early lead and stay there. But the game on Feb. 9 made it so that this wasn't supposed to be the norm anymore. It was decided on the buzzer. Crowds went wild. Columnists crowed, the Border War is back!
But then just like that, it was gone again. Missouri's still a good team -- ranked 11th in the country -- and Kansas is still a force to be threatened with, now as a defending champion. But this game? A total yawn. Kirk Hinrich, whose jersey was retired at Phog, stood by as his alma mater, led by Sherron Collins, who had 25 points in the win torched the Tigers. Missouri stood idly by only to fall back into third in the Big 12 and put Kansas solely in first place by one game.
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No. 9 Michigan State tops No. 20 Illinois: Michigan State didn't surrender the lead for the entire game, but the Illini hung in there -- until two foolish turnovers in the last 90 seconds of the game enabled the Spartans to run away with a 74-64 win.
The win gives Michigan State at least a share of the Big Ten title going into what should be an easy game at Indiana.
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