Buzz Williams stared ahead, his face devoid of emotion.
As the final minutes of the highly anticipated early season matchup between the tenth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and his Marquette Golden Eagles wound down, the normally eccentric head coach’s stoic demeanor stood as a microcosm of the afternoon’s unusual proceedings.
Having represented a well-oiled model of efficiency on both sides of the ball during Williams’ six years in Milwaukee, Marquette, possessors or the nation’s longest home winning streak at 27 games entering the weekend, were shell of themselves as the Buckeyes steamrolled the blue and gold, 52-35, to send MU (2-1) to its first loss at the BMO Harris Bradley Center since Dec. 29, 2011.
While the demise of Marquette’s streak was inevitable, the manner in which it came to a crashing halt on Saturday afternoon was one in which few could have envisioned.
Behind the fewest points scored during the Williams era, the blue and gold shot 18.9 percent from the floor; committed nearly twice as many fouls as baskets made (18-10); accounted for a mere four assists on the heels of setting a school-record 33 helpers against Grambling State on Tuesday; committed 20 turnovers, including seven in the game’s opening ten minutes; and allowed the Buckeyes to have their way inside in the second half, namely in transition.
Todd Mayo paced the Golden Eagles with 11 points (on 3-of-15 shooting), as no MU starter made more than one field goal.
Although Thad Matta’s club was far from stellar themselves—they shot 26.9 percent in the opening frame—Ohio State performed when it mattered the most on Saturday to improve to 3-0 for the fourth consecutive season.
Led by Sam Thompson’s 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench, the Buckeyes, who upped their record to 6-4 all time against MU, used a 19-5 scoring spurt in the second half to send Marquette to its most lopsided loss since a 33-point drubbing at Florida last November.
While the game’s outcome proved to be anticlimactic, the fervor of the crowd and the energy exhibited on the hardwood, at the outset, was similar to that of a postseason affair.
What ensued over the contests first 20 minutes, however, was the lowest scoring first half in Division I this season (38 points) as the two clubs, each of whom stood a win away from the a berth in last season's Final Four, made up for their regularly scheduled season opener from last year (which was canceled due to condensation on the court) combined for 13 field goals; 17 miscues; 17 personal fouls; six assists; and a cumulative field goal percentage of 23.8 percent (OSU shot 26.9, while MU stood at 20.7 percent).
When the dust mercifully settled, the game was knotted at 19-apiece at intermission.
As the Golden Eagles misfired on seven of their first nine shots (all but two of which were from the perimeter), Ohio State, who shot 42.3 percent (22-52) on the game, opened up a 33-24 advantage with 13:58 remaining behind six straight points from Shannon Scott.
MU, who opened up the second half shooting 3-for-21, would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way as they would muster only two made baskets and 11 points over the game’s final 13:42.
Aaron Craft, the defense stalwart and senior leader for the Buckeyes, finished with 10 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and two steals, while continually attacking Marquette’s interior defense.
Davante Gardner, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, entered the weekend averaging a team-best 17.5 points and 4.5 rebounds, but the Marquette big man was held in check to the tune of 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting.
Next up for the Golden Eagles are the New Hampshire Wildcats, with tip off slated for 7:00 p.m. CT at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Thursday, Nov. 21.