Commentary

Instant Analysis: Marquette has too many weapons for Kentucky

Originally Published: March 20, 2008
By Ted Miller | ESPN.com

Editor's Note: ESPN.com's Ted Miller provides instant analysis of the Kentucky-Marquette first-round game in the NCAA tournament.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Marquette's balance proved too much for scrappy Kentucky, and that muted a 35-point effort from Wildcats senior guard Joe Crawford in a 74-66 Golden Eagles victory.

Crawford was sensational, hitting five of eight of his 3-point attempts, but Jerel McNeal (20 points), Lazar Hayward (16), Dominic James (15) and Wesley Matthews (13) just gave the Eagles too many counter options.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: On the boards and turnovers -- that's where Marquette dominated. Kentucky only lost the turnover battle 11-7, but Marquette outscored the Wildcats 20-6 in points off those turnovers. Toss in a 34-26 advantage in rebounding -- including a 15-9 lead on the offensive glass -- and it's not too hard to see where the final margin came from.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: It's impossible not to recognize Crawford's numbers, even in a losing effort. He was 13 of 22 from the field and carried the Wildcats much of the afternoon -- at least until fellow senior guard Ramel Bradley joined the fray in the final minutes.

STAT OF THE GAME: 23 of 29. That's Marquette's tally from the free-throw line (79.3 percent), with James (8 of 10) and Matthews (9-10) doing much of the damage. Matthews in particular was clutch late. The Eagles hit at a 70 percent clip during the regular season. Kentucky was 12 of 17.

BEST OFF THE BENCH: This one was all about the starters. Kentucky got just two points from its bench; Marquette got six points.

WHAT IT MEANS: It means, after consecutive first-round exits, juniors James and McNeal get that monkey off Marquette's back. The Eagles also now own an impressive 6-4 advantage in NCAA tournament games with Kentucky. And, by the way, the last time Marquette beat the Wildcats in the tournament, it begat a Final Four berth.

First-Half Analysis
TURNING POINT: Kentucky jumped ahead 10-4 on the back of a pair of 3-pointers from Bradley and Crawford, but Marquette started to take control in the paint, where every point came during a 12-0 run that put the Golden Eagles ahead 16-10 at the 10-minute mark. Beyond that, four Kentucky turnovers, including two offensive fouls, led to eight of Marquette's points.

TURNING POINT II: The first half certainly played out at Kentucky's methodical pace, which is why this one was just 33-29 at the break. Neither team registered a fast-break basket until the Wildcats' Crawford slammed home an alley-oop dunk at the four-minute mark to tie the score at 23. McNeal immediately answered on the other end with the Eagles' first trey of the game. Marquette attacked the basketball and consistently created good looks, but too often drives came up empty. Still, Hayward's 3-pointer on the half's final possession gave the Eagles momentum heading into the locker room.

PLAYER OF THE HALF: When Kentucky wavered during Marquette's first run, Crawford asserted himself. He led all scorers with 12 points and also added three rebounds and two assists. He was able to consistently drive through the tough Eagles defense.

STAT OF THE HALF: The conventional wisdom is Marquette would control this game inside. And a 12-0 run certainly justified that thinking. But at the break, both teams had 14 points in the paint. Though Marquette owned a 21-15 rebounding advantage -- and seven second-chance points to four -- it wasn't able to completely dominate inside, which is why this game remained close.

STAT OF THE HALF II: While Dominic James is the first name that most folks think of with Marquette, Hayward and McNeal carried the Eagles in the first half, each scoring nine points, while James contributed only three.

PREGAME JOY: Marquette set up what I will call "A Ring of Joy," forming a circle and bouncing around with a nice clockwise rotation before the opening tip. Kentucky didn't do that. Might be an important factor when this one is in the books.

Ted Miller is a college football and basketball writer for ESPN.com.

Ted Miller | email

College Football

ALSO SEE