OMAHA, Neb. – As the Marquette men’s basketball players trudged to the team’s bus inside the CHI Health Center, there were blank looks, downcast stares and frustrated head shakes.
There was plenty to stew about.
The Golden Eagles were in good position to steal a road victory, but their offense fell apart down the stretch in an 83-82 loss to Creighton on Sunday.
BOX SCORE: Creighton 83, Marquette 82
MU (17-10, 9-7 Big East) took a 78-73 lead with 5:02 remaining when Darryl Morsell converted a layup. But MU’s only field goal in the final five minutes came on a desperation three-pointer by Kam Jones in the waning seconds.
In between those baskets, the Golden Eagles missed five shots, committed four turnovers and made 1 of 2 free throws.
“We got a bunch of layups that we didn’t make,” MU coach Shaka Smart said. “We shot 55% for the game, so they were shots that we obviously had been making earlier in the game. We got to finish those plays off.
“And then we had 10 turnovers in the second half. It’s hard to win on the road when you turn the ball over that much.”
Creighton (18-8, 10-5) took the lead at 80-79 after MU’s Justin Lewis coughed up the ball and Ryan Hawkins hit a fastbreak layup with two minutes remaining.
Morsell then missed a midrange jumper, but MU’s Kur Kuath pulled down the offensive rebound. Lewis broke free for a wide-open layup, but he short-armed the attempt and it bounced off the rim.
The Golden Eagles got a defensive stop, but Olivier-Maxence Prosper also missed a shot at close range.
Morsell then harassed Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard into a shot-clock violation with 35 seconds on the clock.
But Morsell lost control of the ball when guarded by Rati Andronikashvili and it bounced out of bounds.
“There was a ball screen coming,” Morsell said. “I messed that up. That’s on me. Nobody else.”
It was tough finish for Morsell, who scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and kept MU in the game with tough buckets.
“The pick-and-roll defense, their big is off in the paint,” Morsell said. “Just playing basketball, for real. I’ve worked on my midrange, I’ve been shooting mid-range my whole life. I felt like I could help my team win, so I tried to make some shots.”
After Morsell’s turnover, Andronikashvili was fouled and made one of two free throws to make it 81-79 with five seconds on the clock.
MU called a timeout, but committed another vexing turnover when Greg Elliott crossed the baseline on his inbound pass.
“I feel like we just got to be more dialed in at the end of the game,” Morsell said. “Especially on the road, at the end of the game, we got to come together even when things aren’t going our way. That’s something we can learn from. We can’t win here, with the crowd and everything, if we’re not connected as a team.”
To add to the Golden Eagles’ frustrations, they were whistled for 19 fouls to Creighton’s eight.
“My job is to coach through that,” Smart said. “Creighton is really good, regardless of the opponent, at not fouling. Those refs are better refs than I am. They made the calls they made. Our job is to control what we can control. I’ll leave it at that.”
Ryan Kalkbrenner led Creighton with 21 points with the 7-foot-1 center causing issues in the paint for MU.
“He’s a good player,” Smart said. “I don’t think he did anything today that he’s not capable of doing. We really put a point of emphasis on trying to fight to keep it out of there.
“He had five offensive rebounds, which is too many. Went to the foul line too much (5 for 6). But he’s a good player.”
The Bluejays swept the regular-season meetings, winning in double-overtime at Fiserv Forum on Jan. 1. After that loss, the Golden Eagles ripped off seven straight victories.
MU’s defense has seen some regression, allowing Creighton to score 46 points in the first half and shoot 53.6% overall.
“I think Creighton deserves a ton of credit,” Smart said. “They made some tough shots. If you break this game down in terms of the shot clock, I thought our defense was pretty good for the first 25 seconds of the shot clock. They just scored, obviously, too many points at the very of the clock.”
The Golden Eagles have three more games in the regular season, starting against Butler on Saturday at Fiserv Forum.
“I think this loss will make us hungrier,” Morsell said. “We got to get going heading in the eight direction heading into the postseason. Just get back in the gym. Get back to our principles. Staying connected.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism