Marquette-Louisville: Nothing Goes Quite Right for Eagles in Narrow Defeat

Tim SeemanAnalyst IMarch 1, 2009

Even before the opening tip of Marquette's game at Louisville, things weren't quite right.

They were playing at 11 a.m. Milwaukee time, noon in Louisville.

The Golden Eagles were wearing "throwback" baby blue uniforms instead of their standard gold or dark blue road jerseys.

Maurice Acker was starting at point guard, marking only the second game since Dominic James' arrival in Milwaukee that he wasn't starting a game.

The game was broadcast on CBS.

Once the game got started, even stranger things started happening.  The aforementioned Acker played 33 minutes. David Cubillan played 11 minutes and scored points.

But the thing that was most frustrating and out of theordinary for me was the performance of Jerel McNeal.

This guy is averaging 20 points-per-game. He only had 10 in this game.  

He's a 44 percent shooter from three-point range. He was 2-10 today from distance.

He went 1-9 on two-point opportunities.

Not even the free throw line offered solace; he made two and missed three from the charity stripe.

Louisville fans will have you believe that this is all because the Cardinals tightened the screws on McNeal, but anyone who watched the game knows that he was just flat-out missing open shots and having the ball rim out from in close.

Some might also tell you that he puts extra pressure on himself to play well in the absence of Dominic James.  I don't think that's the case either.  He looked like he's looked all season. He took the same shots he's been taking all year. They just weren't going through the net today. It happens to everyone who has ever shot a basketball.

The one positive thing Marquette has to take from this game is that they fought hard against a Louisville squad ranked sixth in the country. They refused to quit after going down 11. They refused to quit because one of their best players was out. They refused to quit when another of their best players had a horrendous game.

Think about this: If McNeal had shot 30 percent from three (3-10 vs. 2-10), 20 percent for the rest of his shots (2-10 vs. 1-9), and 60 percent from the free throw line (3-5 vs. 2-5), which are all still far below McNeal's averages, Marquette would have won by six.

You'll see a lot of pundits counting Marquette out after these two consecutive losses (maybe three after playing at Pittsburgh), but to count out a team with the mental toughness and leadership that Marquette has is, in my opinion, a big mistake, especially come tournament time.