LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Marquette's 70-51 loss Sunday at No. 12 Louisville was a missed chance for the Golden Eagles to take control of the Big East.
A win would have given the No. 25 Golden Eagles a one-game lead atop the standings after Syracuse's loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday. But after holding Louisville without a field goal for the first 5:41, Marquette had no answer for the Cardinals' rebounding and defense.
"We had a great opportunity in front of us today," senior guard Trent Lockett said. "Unfortunately, Louisville flat out beat us today. There are no excuses."
Marquette coach Buzz Williams summed up Louisville's performance with two statistics.
"They rebounded 11 of their 16 missed shots in the first half," Williams said. "They forced 12 turnovers in the second. That's their recipe for winning and I thought they were really, really good in both halves."
Against a team that prides itself on getting the ball inside, Louisville outrebounded the Golden Eagles 38-26. That gave the Cardinals easy shots at the rim and a 42-20 advantage on points in the paint.
"They absolutely smacked us," Williams said.
The Marquette bench entered Sunday averaging nearly 31 points and 18 rebounds a game but contributed just 10 points and seven rebounds against Louisville. Guards Vander Blue (17) and Lockett (16) combined for 33 of the team's 51 points.
Reserve big man Davante Gardner picked up two early fouls and was never a factor.
"I thought we settled too much — once we got it below the free throw line, I thought we settled for too many jumpers," Williams said of his team's inside game. "I didn't think we put enough pressure on their defense once we got it below the free throw line."
Marquette (15-5, 6-2 Big East) dropped to 1-4 in road games this season. The Golden Eagles will have to start winning away from home if they want to stay in the Big East race.
Four of their next six games are on the road, starting Wednesday at South Florida.
Russ Smith scored 18 points, Peyton Siva added 14 and Louisville shot 52 percent after trailing 9-1 behind 0-for-7 shooting and three turnovers. The Cardinals (18-4, 6-3) went nearly six minutes without a basket before Montrezl Harrell scored on a dunk at the 14:19 mark, 12 seconds after he entered the game.
Marquette controlled the game for several more minutes, but the freshman forward's shot helped shake the Cardinals from their listless start.
A 24-9 run followed over the next nine minutes as the Cardinals made 10 of their next 15 attempts. Louisville's bench provided the spark as Wayne Blackshear, who missed the previous game with a shoulder injury, returned to hit three of his first four shots. He finished with nine points.
Marquette struggled getting the ball into the paint and fell victim to Louisville's pressure defense several other times. The result was 10-of-31 shooting in the first half and a 38-24 deficit to the Cardinals, who hit 16 of 32 and outrebounded the Golden Eagles 26-13.
Louisville's starters found their games, as well, with Smith scoring 12 points and Siva nine in the first half. The Cardinals stretched their lead to 53-30 about six minutes into the second half when Luke Hancock made back-to-back 3s on feeds from Siva.
The Cardinals' lead reached 23 in the second half and Marquette didn't get closer than 15 the rest of the way.
Lockett didn't believe Sunday's boisterous crowd wasn't to blame for the loss.
"The crowd got into it but, to be honest, we killed ourselves," he said. "We didn't take up space on the defensive glass. They killed us on offensive rebounds and that's really what swung the game in their favor. Once it got to 14, 15 points, it was hard to come back."