NEW YORK – The Marquette Golden Eagles were flying high for 20 minutes against one of the best teams in college basketball at the NIT Season Tip-Off on Wednesday.
Then the second half started and MU crashed back to earth with an alarming thud.
Second-ranked Kansas ripped off 22 unanswered points after halftime to rally past a staggered MU and claim a 77-68 victory at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Golden Eagles (3-2) missed their first 10 shots and had five turnovers before junior wing Sam Hauser hit a three-pointer with 10 minutes 45 seconds left in the game.
By that time, the Jayhawks (4-0) had turned a 47-38 deficit into a 13-point lead.
BOX SCORE: Kansas 77, Marquette 68
“In terms of what we wanted to do, we stopped doing it,” MU coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “In the first half, I thought we were really physical defensively and they didn’t get many points at the rim.
“And then offensively, we turned it over and we gave them easy baskets, which you can’t do against a team like Kansas. And then some of the decisions that we made in the first half, we didn’t make the same decisions in the second half.
“And I thought we left a lot of really good shots and opportunities on the table. You can’t do that. Obviously, Kansas is as talented as anyone and in order to beat a team like that you have to play 40 minutes. Certainly we didn’t do that.”
MU played its best half of the season in the opening 20 minutes.
The Golden Eagles sank 11 of 21 three-pointers before halftime. They had 11 assists on 18 field goals. They had only five turnovers. Hauser and junior guard Markus Howard combined for 30 points.
“The ball was moving,” Hauser said. “We stuck to our game plan. We knew we were going to be open. We executed really well and that’s why we had a great first half.”
The only negative for MU in the first half was foul trouble. The talented front line of Kansas caused Joey Hauser, Theo John, Matt Heldt and Ed Morrow Jr. to all pick up two fouls.
MU still brought a 47-38 lead into its locker room. It could have been an 11-point advantage, but MU allowed Kansas to race the ball up the court in the waning seconds and Marcus Garrett scored on a runner in the paint.
It was the beginning of an avalanche that would overwhelm MU.
The Jayhawks’ Dedric Lawson opened the scoring after the break by putting back an offensive rebound. He would go on to have 15 points and nine rebounds in the second half.
Kansas applied more defensive pressure and MU started rushing shots and coughing up the ball.
Wojciechowski called a timeout at the 17:29 mark after a dunk by Udoka Azubuike and a layup by Devon Dotson gave Kansas the first six points of the half.
That did not settle down MU.
Lawson’s tip-in on an offensive rebound a few minutes later gave Kansas the lead at 48-47.
Lagerald Vick’s layup with 11:02 remaining capped the 22 straight points after halftime.
MU was out of sorts with no idea how to right itself.
The Golden Eagles shot just 7 for 27 (25.9 percent) in the second half, including 3 for 10 on three-pointers. Howard was 1 for 10 after the break.
MU also had eight turnovers in the second half.
Not taking care of the ball has been the biggest issue for the Golden Eagles so far this season.
“They were more aggressive on the ball and off the ball,” Sam Hauser said of Kansas’ renewed defensive effort after halftime. “Going for steals and stuff like that, which led to turnovers by us and fast breaks for them.”
MU was cold from the perimeter and also failed to attack the basket, even with the 7-foot-1 Azubuike battling some foul trouble.
The Golden Eagles didn’t shoot their first free throws until there was 4:21 remaining. They finished just 4 for 5 from the line.
“We wanted to drive the ball,” Wojciechowski said. “Obviously they are really big around the rim. And, yeah, we have to get to the free-throw line more. That’s an area we have to work on.”
The Jayhawks also switched more on defense while using a small-ball lineup.
“I thought their pressure really pushed our offense out,” Wojciechowski said. “We didn’t have the same flow, number of passes and sound decision-making in the second half that we had in the first half.”
The Golden Eagles won’t have long to dwell on this loss. They face Louisville on Friday in the NIT Season Tip-Off’s third-place game.