Before I knew Marquette as a school or a basketball program, I knew it as part of the name of the Marquette and Bessemer #2, a train car ferry on Lake Erie in the early 1900s. For those of you who weren't following us on Twitter last night, I'll lay out the story in brief.
Late in the 1909 shipping season, the Marquette and Bessemer #2 set out on its usual run from Conneaut, Oh to Port Stanley in Ontario. By the time it arrived at Port Stanley, the 50 mph gusts it has set out into were sustained 75 mph winds that would last three days; it wasn't able to make harbor. Witnesses reported hearing its whistle off shore overnight, and there were less verifiable reports of its presence all over the west end of Lake Erie for the next several days. Its fate was more or less known when a lifeboat carrying nine men - including the ship's steward, armed with three large knives from the ship's galley.
All of the ship's lifeboats were eventually recovered, but only half of them showed signs of having been used. Every body found was dressed lightly. Whatever happened, it happened quickly.
Oddly, the ship's captain's body was recovered the next October, bearing several serious knife wounds, leading to speculation regarding the ship's steward and the ship's last moments.
The wreck has never been recovered.
I think about that story every time we play Marquette, but never more so than watching the shipwreck that was last night's game.
The storm was building from the start, with Xavier surrendering 14 points before the first media timeout and allowing offensive rebounds on 6 of Marquette's first 9 misses. Tyrique Jones, the unquestionable captain of the ship last night, battled back, drawing fouls on Theo John and providing Xavier's only consistent offensive threat.
By the time the safe harbor of halftime appeared, it was clear X was foundering. In the crucial final four minutes of the half, a 9-2 run for Marquette put Xavier down 12 with green water coming over the decks.
It wasn't over yet. Paul Scruggs, confined to quarters for the last 14 minutes of the first half with 2 fouls, came out swinging and steering for shelter. Behind his energy and a full-court press, Xavier cut the deficit to 7.
Is that Xavier's whistle I hear off shore? Will I see them when dawn breaks, battered but afloat, riding out the storm before making the charge into harbor?
The ensuing 15-0 run from Marquette hit like a rogue wave. The final 13 minutes of the game amounted to little more than a search for survivors.
None were found.