Justin freaking Lewis. Holy crap. The man put up 33 points on 11-for-19 from the field, 4-for-7 from behind the arc, nine rebounds, six (!) assists, AND three steals to lead #22 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles in their 73-63 win over Seton Hall.
I’ve been saying that he might as well just go nuclear the rest of the season since he’s probably going into the NBA Draft after this season regardless of what else happens at this point and he absolutely did tonight. On top of shooting his draft stock up immensely, this performance puts Lewis at the forefront of the Big East Player of the Year conversation.
He’s been a HUGE part of Marquette’s now seven (!) game win streak, including the four wins over ranked teams in that stretch. The man is a born winner.
Let’s dive in to what happened at The Rock on Wednesday night. Kur Kuath set the tone off the bat, getting a block on Seton Hall’s Ike Obiagu during the first possession. Obiagu went for seven blocks in Milwaukee in the first meeting, so this was A Whole Thing here. Kuath was DOMINANT early on, racking up five blocks before the under-16 timeout. In fairness, we didn’t get the under-16 until the 12:38 mark in the first half so it’s really more like five blocks less than seven minutes. BUT STILL! That’s an absolutely crazy performance. Kuath’s paint protection helped Marquette to weather a terrible rebounding stretch where Marquette gave up seven offensive rebounds and by that same media timeout was actually leading the game 12-5.
At around the nine minute mark, Darryl Morsell would find his four points in the game (no, really, this is it for the whole game) on back-to-back possessions. It was like I was caught in a Groundhog Day scenario where it’s just Morsell mid-ranges constantly. Both possessions Morsell got the ball late in the shot clock, drove inside the arc, stopped before the paint, and buried a mid-range as he is so prone to doing. Doing so back-to-back forced the first Seton Hall coward’s timeout of the game and put Marquette up double digits for the next 17-ish minutes.
Marquette played like they weren’t going to look back. The Seton Hall games of old were behind us, and who cares what crazy reffing would inevitably happen because Marquette would be so far ahead. David Joplin launched in a three, Stevie Mitchell forced a couple of turnovers with his intelligent and pesky defense, and Olivier-Maxence Prosper followed up a Jamir Harris three with one of his own. Everything was going right for MU, except that Oso Ighodaro picked up a couple of early fouls. But, oh well, Kuath was playing out of his mind so it didn’t feel like that big of a deal.
The gap ran all the way up to 19 points, before settling at Marquette leading 38-21 at intermission after a Tray Jackson full court heave bounced off the backboard, then the rim, and went out. Sigh of relief. 38-21 is a much better score than 38-24. The points-per-possession in the first half: MU 1.19, SHU 0.66.
Jared Rhoden finally decided to show up in the second half for Seton Hall. After a bit of back and forth to start off the second half, Rhoden scored nine of the points on a 12-2 SHU run which forced a Shaka Smart timeout with 12 minutes left and Marquette leading 47-39. This was probably the point where the game felt most in question. Very much a “oh, is this the game that they finally show their youth at the worst possible time” type of deal.
Seton Hall was rolling, the Marquette offense had just put up two made free throws, not even any field goals, in five minutes while Rhoden looked unstoppable. He was finding his spots, hitting threes, and getting to the rim at will.
After the timeout, Marquette decided that it wanted to win the game again. Two Kam Jones threes sandwiched a Lewis three to take Marquette’s lead all the way back up to 17 in a minute long heartbeat.
Both teams went pretty quiet until about nine minutes left: Mitchell managed to steal the ball and make a spin pass to Lewis who took it the length of the floor and, you guessed it, emphatically dunk the ball to put Marquette up by 21.
A few free throws later and the score stood at 63-44 during the under eight timeout. Marquette firmly in control at the moment, but the key phrase there is “at the moment.” The rest of the way was a lot more difficult than it should have been, I’ll put it that way.
With just under seven minutes left, Oso Ighodaro collected a pass from Kam Jones and dunked it. That felt like that. Marquette had a 19 point lead with 6.5 minutes left and all was right in the world. Until, just 20 seconds later Jamir Harris hit a three. Then a minute later, another three. After a couple Kadary Richmond free throws, Harris hit another shot to cut the lead down to nine with just four minutes left. If you’re keeping track, that’s a 10-0 Seton Hall run.
The score sat at 65-56 in Marquette’s favor as the game started to feel a little bit more stressful during the under-four timeout. The next few minutes would prove to be super anticlimactic as neither team scored from the 3:58 mark until the 1:10 mark. Both defenses hunkered down, forced turnovers, and forced the other team into bad shots. But when you’re the team that’s up nine, that’s actually a good thing. Jared Rhoden, a 81.9% free throw shooter, did miss both free throws after Lewis fouled him, if that’s any indication on how this passage of play went. Marquette decided to play prevent offense and would just stand a couple steps in from half court dribbling until there were 15 seconds left on the shot clock to actually start running the offense.
Ultimately, it proved to be fruitful and at the previously mentioned 1:10 mark, Olivier-Maxence Prosper got a man-sized and-one off of Ike Obiagu to free things up again. But he missed the free throw. Ugh.
By the 50 second mark, Seton Hall had actually cut the deficit to just six points: 67-61. Just a couple seconds after they scored, Justin Lewis and Tyler Kolek worked their magic to create a Lewis dunk to put the game firmly out of the Pirates’ reach. A few Lewis free throws in the last minute pushed the lead out to 10.
The sky's the limit for this team when Justin Lewis plays like he did in this game. His performance helped to overcome a sub-par offensive performance from our other big scorers: Morsell was just 2-for-10 from the field and Greg Elliot only attempted one shot in his 15 minutes of action. Kur Kuath also managed to pass Walter Downing to take sole possession of eighth place on the single season blocks chart.
Nonetheless, here are some highlights from the game thanks to GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports:
Up Next: Can Marquette make it eight in a row? They take on #17 Providence this Saturday January 29th at 3:30pm Central in Rhode Island. The Friars currently sit atop the Big East with their 7-1 conference record and 17-2 record overall after narrowly cutting down Xavier on Wednesday night. In case you were wondering if we were going to escape this season without a weird Marquette/Providence game, well, a blizzard is expected to hit Rhode Island and drop 6-12 inches of snow during the day into Saturday night.