At least the defense was impressive again. Despite another ugly offensive performance and a late surge from the Wildcats, Marquette improved to 3-1 with a 58-53 win over New Hampshire.
The Golden Eagles shot just 32.7 percent from the field, two games removed from tallying 114 in a win over Grambling State. They did shoot 39.1 percent in the second half, however.
“As much as shooting would be the focal point of what you guys would write, I think the issue has to become how hard we play,” coach Buzz Williams said. “And we’re not playing near hard enough. That’s not a coaching rant. I’m telling you, all of you, the same thing I told our team.”
But Williams also said his team didn’t earn the right to make shots because there wasn’t enough ball movement.
“I think with how we’ve been built and choreographed, probably you won’t make it if we haven’t got a paint touch,” Williams said. “If the ball hasn’t been reversed from one side to the other to make the defense have to jump to the ball and shift, you probably won’t make first-side shots.”
The victory didn’t come without some unexpected fight from the Wildcats.
New Hampshire cut the lead to four on a Jordon Bronner three with 42.9 seconds left. Free throws from Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson were needed to finally ice the game.
“If just a few more possessions went right, they would have won tonight,” Williams said of the Wildcats. “And I want to make sure that whoever is writing … I would like you to add a sentence of my respect to coach (Bill) Herrion and their program.”
Mayo and Chris Otule each scored 16 points to lead Marquette. No other Golden Eagle scored more than nine points.
“It seems like for a guy that can’t see and really can’t shoot, he was 6 of 7 from the field,” Williams said of Otule. “I know the response, ‘They were all bunnies.’ OK, 6 of 7 though. And for a guy that I think he’s a 45 percent free throw shooter, he was 4 of 7 from the free throw line and he can’t shoot. But somehow he made 4 of 7, which, percentage wise, if you added the rest of those guys up, that’s what they shot. “
Despite limited offense, Marquette did hold New Hampshire 27 points below its 80-point per game average and to 34 percent from the field.
The offensive struggles are getting harder to overlook, though. Marquette was 3 of 22 on three-point attempts after going 1 of 18 against Ohio State.
Jake Thomas hit two of those triples and they couldn’t have come at a better time. After Patrick Konan hit a three to pull New Hampshire within seven with 6:11 left, Thomas’ basket on the other end gave Marquette a double-digit lead once again.
He struck again with another three at the 4:20 mark to give Marquette a 51-41 lead.
Davante Gardner finished with a season-low five points after scoring in double digits his first three games.
Marquette jumped out to an early 20-5 lead with 9:55 left in the first half, but scored just five points in the half.