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First One Down: Marquette 88, SIU Edwardsville 77

All that matters is that Shaka Smart is 1-0 as Marquette’s head coach.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Stevie Mitchell had 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists in his Marquette debut.
Mark Hoffman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Shaky wins are still wins, and so we get to celebrate and high five after YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles beat SIU Edwardsville 88-77 on Tuesday night in the 2021-22 season debut for both squads.

Things started about as nicely as you could want with Darryl Morsell raining a three on MU’s first shot of the season and Justin Lewis doing the same off a dish from Tyler Kolek on possession and shot #2 of the season. 6-0, just 74 seconds into the season. Then they turned on Marquette, and the fight was officially on. The visiting Cougars, coached by Marquette grad Brian Barone, scored the next 13 points of the game to put the Golden Eagles down seven less than five minutes in.

MU tied the game up at 17 on a dunk by Morsell at the 11:27 mark, and it stayed close for the rest of the half. It looked, for a second, that the Golden Eagles were getting it in gear and about to break the game wide open as they built a seven point lead, 30-23, on a bucket from Kur Kuath with 7:02 to go in the half, but SIUE ripped off eight straight to get back out in front and keep things neck-and-neck til til halftime. Courtney Carter got a layup to go at the horn, and MU went into the locker room for their first intermission pep talk from Shaka Smart with a 39-38 lead.

The only reason MU was up at the break was because SIUE had committed 15 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game. Marquette was doing a great job creating dysfunction, but if the Cougars got far enough along to get a shot up, it usually went in. They shot 62% in the first half to stay right with the Golden Eagles, and they did it while only shooting three times from behind the arc with one make.

The two sides traded buckets out of the break with SIUE going up 44-41. From there, MU put a few things together. The Cougars went more than two minutes without scoring and in the meantime, MU ripped off a 9-0 run to go up six, 50-44. After a bucket from Shaun Doss broke up the run, a dunk from Justin Lewis and a three from Kam Jones pushed the margin to nine with 15:28 to go.

SIUE made Marquette work for it, but finally, with 13:52 to go, Morsell canned one of his three triples on the night to put the Golden Eagles up 10 for the first time in the game, 60-50. A second later, Stevie Mitchell went on a personal 5-0 run to stake the home team to a 65-52 lead. Ah, approaching cruising altitude.

Yeah, not so much. That 13 point lead — okay, technically the 67-54 score a little later — would be Marquette’s largest of the game.

SIUE chipped and chipped and chipped at the lead. Nine points, eight. Six, on a dunk by Doss with 6:36 to go. Five, on a Ray’Sean Taylor layup with 4:43 to go.

And that’s as close as it got.

Justin Lewis got a layup to go at the 1:58 mark to put MU up 83-75, Taylor hit two freebies 20 seconds later, and the Cougars would not score again while MU iced the game away at the free throw line.

Morsell gets high scorer’s honors in his first game at Marquette, getting a career best 21 points on a pretty good 7-for-13 shooting performance before fouling out. Lewis had 17, Stevie Mitchell had 14, and Tyler Kolek had 10 to join Morsell in double digit town. Lewis added 11 rebounds for his first career double-double, while Kolek led the team with nine assists — seven in the first half alone — and three steals, too. Kur Kuath made an impact on the defensive end with three blocks.

Let’s be clear: Defense won this game for Marquette. 29% turnover rate isn’t sustainable for the whole year, sure. But it worked for 40 minutes while the Golden Eagles shot just 44% from the field and a very terrible 27% from long range on 26 attempts.

How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?

Up Next: Marquette will reconvene at Fiserv Forum on Friday night for a game against New Hampshire. The Wildcats went to 1-0 on Tuesday with a win over St. Joseph’s of Maine, 98-53. UNH was even worse shooting threes than Marquette, connecting on just 19%, but they still scored 1.27 points per possession in the win.