GLADSTONE - The Marquette Redmen, down one Mark Pap was the difference for Gladstone Tuesday evening. Then, Mark Pap was simply the difference.
The Redmen's star forward, in foul trouble for much of the game, came back when he was needed most and took control late to power Marquette to a 58-51 victory in their opener, and a Great Northern Conference win.
Pap picked up his third foul with minutes to spare in the first quarter, while guarding Gladstone's Jared Vuksan. For nearly all of the next 20 minutes, Pap was stuck on the bench, and when he did enter the game briefly in the third quarter, he promptly picked up his fourth foul and was exiled back to the bench.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Gladstone’s Jared Vuksan hauls down a rebound in front of Marquette’s Larry Burnette (4) Tuesday night at Gladstone. Looking on is Blake Ballard (24). The Redmen won 58-51.
It didn't end with Pap though. Redmen guard Larry Burnette also got tagged for three first quarter fouls, leaving Marquette two key starters down for much of the game.
Impressively, the Redmen hung around, never trailing by more than four points as A.J. Grazulis and sophomore Connor Brazeau stepped up. Grazulis had an impressive showing, with a game-high 21 points, 11 rebounds and three big blocks.
"WIth Mark and Burnett sitting for almost the entire first half, I'm proud of the way our kids stepped up," said Marquette coach Brad Nelson. "Brazeau in as a sophomore had a good showing and it was a good experience for him and the rest of the players know now, that if this situation occurs again, they have to step up."
Marquette 14 10 12 22 - 58
Gladstone 18 8 9 16 - 51
MARQUETTE - Nyquist 11, Burnette 6, Brazeau 6, Pap 14, Grazulis 21. FT: 17-23; F: 12; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Pap
GLADSTONE - R. Ballard 7, Kleiman 8, Pederson 3, Cretens 10, Hunter 10, Vuksan 13. FT: 5-7; F: 20; Fouled out: Cretens; 3-point field goals: R. Ballard, Kleiman 2, Pederson, Cretens 2, Hunter 2.
Marquette seemed to have trouble early with the speed of Gladstone, as the Braves got bunches of buckets in transition. Kyle Kleiman got consecutive triples midway through the first quarter and the Braves carried an 18-14 lead into the second.
The Redmen controlled the tempo for much of the second quarter, slowing the game down and throwing the Braves' offense of its rhythm. Turnovers began to accumulate and shooting went cold, but still Gladstone clung to a 26-24 lead at halftime.
Back and forth it went after the break. The 3-pointers that were dropping earlier for Gladstone now bounced off the rim and the Braves inside game wasn't strong enough to carry them. Vuksan was held to 13 points in the game and was defended well in the paint. Marquette eventually took a 36-35 lead at the end of the quarter on a layup by Grazulis.
The next four minutes was all Grazulis and Vuksan.
After another Grazulis field goal to start the fourth quarter, Vuksan drove to the net and drew the foul for a three-point play to tie the game. Grazulis answered with his own three-point play. Back-to-back putbacks by Vuksan inched Gladstone back ahead 42-41. That was as close as the Braves got.
Andrew Nyquist hit both throws after getting fouled to put the Redmen ahead. Then, Pap re-entered the game and was promptly fouled, hitting both his shots as well, en-route to a eight-point quarter. He was noticeably off at first, but heated up quickly enough to put away the Braves, including hitting a big triple to give the Redmen a 47-44 lead with under two minutes to go.
"I knew Pap's first three shots were off as soon as he shot them, he'd been sitting for long, but he got it going," said Nelson. Andy kicked the ball to him on that three and that was big. Him and Vuksan battled it out down low and that was fun to watch."
The Redmen were 11-of-12 from the line in the fourth quarter, helping to stave off the Braves.
"I think Gladstone may have panicked more in the offensive end, in the second half," said Nelson. "It was a game of energy and runs, and we made some nice runs at the right time."
A bigger factor, may have been Gladstone's 21 turnovers.
"That's way too many, we have to do better," said Braves coach Phil Griebel. "There were a lot of mental lapses tonight, which hurt us at crucial times. We hung around and battled though. I can't fault the effort, but we have to clean it up.
"In the fourth quarter we had some defensive breakdowns. We have up a lot of offensive rebounds when half our guys were playing zone and half were playing man-to-man. That's on me."
Gladstone (1-1, 0-1 GNC), which won the freshman game 54-36, travels to Escanaba on Friday while Marquette (1-0, 1-0), winners of the jayvee game, 43-36, hosts Negaunee, Thursday.