The Marquette Golden Eagles had a tremendous season, entering tonight's game at 27-7. Marquette was looking to become the third Big East team to reach the Elite Eight on the night.
Unfortunately for Buzz Williams and his troops, it was not to be. Marquette just couldn't seem to get into any type of flow or rhythm offensively and ultimately wasted a fine defensive performance.
With both No. 1 seed Michigan State and No. 2 seed Missouri sent packing already, the Golden Eagles only had to go through conference foe Louisville to reach the national semifinal.
Marquette can only dream about what could have been as they head home until next fall. Here are the key reasons for the early departure after a 68-58 loss to No. 7 seed Florida.
Crowder was too aggressive in the first half.
Early in the game Marquette looked like the team that cruised through two games last week.
The Golden Eagles were creating turnovers and scoring in the open court. Jae Crowder was a big part of that.
With 9:31 remaining in the first half, Marquette led 19-17. That exact second is significant because it was when Crowder picked up his second foul. Over the rest of the half Marquette looked bogged down on offense and sluggish on defense.
Florida outscored Marquette 19-11, heading into the half with a 36-30 lead. Crowder came back in the second half, but he never looked the same.
Johnson-Odom couldn't get out on the break against the Gators.
As Marquette blazed through both BYU and Murray State, it was its transition offense that led the way. With that part of the game nonexistent, Marquette found itself hanging around the perimeter settling for long jumpers.
Of its 65 attempts, 38 were jump shots. Marquette only managed eight makes on those 38 attempts.
Two of the most aggressive offensive players in the tournament, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, played on of their most passive games of the season.
The dynamic duo combined for just 29 points. Of their 30 field-goal attempts, 21 were jumpers and 14 were from three-point range. They only got the the free-throw line a combined eight times.
Gardner had trouble in close.
The Florida Gators have the identity of an outside shooting team with three great shooters in the starting lineup. Marquette is known as the bigger, more physical team. It didn't shake out that way tonight.
Despite a size and strength advantage, Florida didn't win this game by shooting over the Golden Eagles. The Gators won by attacking Marquette's defense and finishing what it started.
Florida attempted 18 shots at the rim area, connecting on 12 of them. Marquette, with all of its size and strength, only managed 13-of-26.
On top of that, Florida hit 13-of-15 from the line, while Marquette converted just 12-of-18. Florida just played a tougher game than Marquette.
Florida swarmed Marquette in close.
Florida isn't known for its active defense. It doesn't have big men that are known for guarding the basket. But against Marquette, something seemed to change.
The Gators didn't block a single shot in its 71-45 drubbing of Virginia and blocked four shots while throttling Norfolk State. That is four blocked shots in two games.
Marquette had 10 shots blocked total in its first two tournament games. Tonight Florida brought out the fly swatters, as the Gators sent back nine shots by the Golden Eagles.
The active hands of Florida played a key role in Marquette's ineffectiveness in the paint.
Beal is giving his teammates reason to smile.
Bradley Beal entered the biggest game of his life quietly as Florida's best player.
NBA scouts know about Beal, but the average American viewer may not. He had been really solid in the tournament thus far, averaging 14.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. The rebounding is astronomical for a guard.
But tonight, against a tough opponent, Beal introduced himself to the country.
His team struggled mightily offensively. Outside of Beal, the Gators shot 32.7 percent from the field and 18.2 percent on threes. Normally that would spell doom, but he lifted his teammates on his freshman shoulders.
Beal scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 on threes. He also grabbed six rebounds while adding two steals and two blocks.
Florida wasn't expected to advance this far, but Beal can bring them even further if he continues to play at this level.