By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Dec 06, 2014 at 3:07 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

Leading into Saturday’s basketball matinee at the BMO Harris Bradley Center between Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin, the Golden Eagles were asked about the size differential between their team and the No. 2-ranked Badgers.

Golden Eagles senior Juan Anderson, one of the taller players at 6-feet, 6-inches, essentially, said it is what it is.

So, Marquette planned to combat it by putting an emphasis on ball pressure, being quick in their zone coverage, and doing their best to prevent entry passes to Badgers center Frank Kaminsky (7-foot) and forwards Sam Dekker (6-9) and Nigel Hayes (6-8).

Marquette did all of those things Saturday. Max effort all the way, and it kept them in it before finally succumbing late in a 49-38 loss.

"That was game where (Marquette coach) Steve (Wojciechowski) said, alright, look, here’s what we’re gonna do. He had a plan," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "They worked their plan. We made enough shots to get it done. And, I love playing in those kind of games."

The ball pressure and a compact zone showed a largely pro-Marquette crowd just how far the Golden Eagles had come since the last time they played a game at home, an uninspiring 62-57 win over NJIT on Nov. 24.

These are all positives Wojciechowski and his staff can highlight, and build upon.

But, in the end, the deciding factor — as it almost always is — was that the Badgers were just more talented, and far more experienced.

There were a series of plays in the second half that demonstrated this.

The Golden Eagles had come out of the break firing, going on a 7-0 run to pull within 25-22. The crowd was live, the tide seemed to be coming in.

But then, the Badgers pulled down three consecutive offensive rebounds, which led to a Josh Gasser 3-pointer.

Now down 28-23 and in need of a stop, Golden Eagles freshman Duane Wilson picked Duje Dukan’s pocket in the backcourt. Rather than give up an easy layup, Dukan fouled to stop play.

Marquette guard Matt Carlino missed a 3-pointer and Kaminsky, the preseason All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year, calmly worked his way into the paint and hit a jumper — 30-23.

Carlino came down and tried a bounce pass to Steve Taylor cutting down the lane, only Kaminsky stole it.

Coming back, Kaminsky worked his way in for an easy 8-footer, but it rimmed out, only to be tapped back in by Dekker from the backside — 32-23.

Now, that sequence didn’t end the game of course.

The Golden Eagles kept it close until, again, another sequence late when Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Kaminsky combined for nine straight points to stretch a 35-33 lead to double digits with about four minutes left.

"Every time the crowd got into it, every time they chipped to within three, four points, we always made a shot," Gasser said. "We’re a veteran club and we have some tough guys, so we expect nothing less."

Kaminsky then provided the dagger with a 3-pointer that made it 47-38 with less than a minute remaining.

"Those guys know their roles," Wojciechowski said. "You have everybody who’s returned from a Final Four team and pretty much they’re still in the same lane. Now they may be better and their lane may be bigger, but they’re still in the same lane. For our group, every one of our players is changing lanes, and so that’s just not an excuse, that’s just what it is."

Marquette held Wisconsin to just 32.7 percent shooting on the night, including 26.7 percent from behind the 3-point line, but they won the rebounding battle 41-28, including an 14-5 edge in offensive rebounds.

"We were finding open people, just shots weren’t falling today," Kaminsky said. "That’s going to happen in basketball. We picked up in other areas of our game that really helped us win."

The Badgers also scored 16 points off 10 Golden Eagles turnovers while allowing just four points off their own 11 turnovers while holding Marquette to just 28.9 percent from the floor on 13 of 45 shooting.

"That’s kind of what we wanted it to be," Carlino said of the low-scoring, defensive-oriented contest. "We wanted them to not make a lot shots, but we wanted to make more shots, obviously. So yeah, it was a tough one.

"Offensively we probably should have executed it better. Defensively we played well. We just need to finish possessions with rebounds. Yeah, we were right there, but I mean, you don’t get anything for that."

This non-conference slate has been a grind for the Golden Eagles the last month, as they now have three losses to Big Ten schools that started the week ranked in the top 20.

"I think our guys, since we left for Orlando, have showed a great deal of fight and we want that to be who we are," Wojciechowski said. "We want to be fighters. We want to be guys who compete and have a great competitive spirit and I think our guys have had that. And if we can couple that with better decision making, we have a chance."

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.