I was on the phone with Mr. Charm yesterday before the games began, and we talked about Murray State. It struck me that they were unfortunate to have drawn Marquette this early in the tournament because in doing so they were looking themselves in the mirror. An athletic, defensive-based and mentally tough team that would fight on those terms. In my mind, Murray State, and Marquette for that matter, would have done better to have drawn a Kansas or North Carolina, teams with lots of talent, but prone to indifferent performance. Be that as it may, as a fan, the Murray State/Marquette was a game cut from Ali-Frazier cloth.
Both teams mirrored each other in an epic battle of palpable intensity. Every possession mattered. No cut went unbumped. No rebound uncontested. It was a joy to watch. All the cliches of playing hard and competing every possession were reality for 40 minutes. Murray State took a late 46-41 lead, and Marquette called a time-out. Marquette cut, then took the lead. Murray State wobbled, but didn’t fall. Brave steals and rebounds kept them alive, but tired legs left shots short and mental fatigue resulted in turnovers. At the final horn, Marquette won by nine, a scoreline that didn’t do the game justice. Murray State’s greatest season ended in the round of 32. Marquette will play again. Thankfully, it will not be for another five days. They will need at least that long, to regain what they left on the floor against Murray State.