#20 Marquette Golden Eagles (15-5, 7-2 Big East) at Seton Hall Pirates (12-8, 5-4 Big East)
Date: Saturday, January 21, 2023
Time: 3pm Central
Location: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Kam Jones, 16.1 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 6.3 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 7.9 apg
Seton Hall Stats Leaders
Points: Al-Amir Dawes, 11.9 ppg
Rebounds: Tyrese Samuel, 6.2 rpg
Assists: Kadary Richmond, 3.9 apg
Seton Hall: #50
Game Projection: Marquette has a 55% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 73-72.
Last Time Out: Back on December 27th, Marquette picked up an 83-69 victory over Seton Hall at Fiserv Forum. That was the first game in a five game winning streak that launched the Golden Eagles into the Associated Press top 25 and all the way to their current #20 ranking. The first half of that one very much looked like both teams were playing their first games after a break for Christmas, as Marquette outscored Seton Hall 27-2 across two different first half runs..... and Seton Hall did the same to MU, 23-2, with two different first half runs. Shaky at best for both sides, and the thing went to halftime with the Golden Eagles up seven. Two kills in the first 10 minutes of the second half allowed MU to extend their lead to 13 and hold it together from there. Oso Ighodaro had a 16 point/10 rebound double-double plus four assists, three blocks, and a steal to lead the Golden Eagles, while 15 points from Dre Davis paced the Pirates.
Since Last We Met: That loss dropped Seton Hall to 7-7 on the year and 0-3 in Big East play, and caused them to tumble to a season low #67 in the KenPom.com rankings. Things have turned around since then, as the Pirates have won five of the six games since coming to Milwaukee, with the only misstep coming as a road trip to Omaha to visit Creighton, and a lot of Big East teams are going to lose there this year. The first win was a home smashing of St. John’s as Seton Hall turned a 29-20 SJU lead into a 54-39 advantage for themselves across the middle 12 minutes of the game. After that came the loss to Creighton, which was not good independent of anything, as they lost by 22. From there, though, it’s been four straight wins: by 25 at home against Butler, by 15 at Georgetown, by four at DePaul after taking control with a 12-2 run in the second half... and finally, a 67-66 win over #15 Connecticut on Wednesday night.
That game is of particular interest for Marquette, not just because it’s Seton Hall’s most recent game. UConn went on a 14-1 late in the first half to go up 17 and lead by 14 at intermission. The Pirates went on their own run a few minutes into the second half, 12-2, to pull the thing within three points, and it was a battle the rest of the way. It looked like the Huskies were going to figure it out at The Rock without head coach Dan Hurley or top assistant Kimani Wright, absent due to COVID, as they went up 64-59 with five minutes to go..... and Seton Hall allowed just one more basket for the rest of the game, and KC Ndefo won it for the Pirates right before the horn.
Tempo Free Fun: The instructive point for Marquette relative to that Connecticut game is that Seton Hall allowed just 26 second half points to the Huskies after giving up 40 in the first 20 minutes. That is the kind of thing that SHU is capable of doing to you, even if you’re a great offensive team like UConn: #16 on Friday morning in offensive efficiency per KenPom.com. Even if you’re chugging along and everything looks like it’s fine, the Pirates and their #17 defense can jump up and get you.
Of course, this is the point of the show where I check in on what Marquette did against the Pirates last time around..... and that was the second worst defensive performance of the year by Seton Hall at 1.26 points per possession for the full 40 minutes, and the worst in Big East play. A large reason for that is because of the 44 points that the Golden Eagles hung on Seton Hall in the second half. As we’ve seen time and time again over the last several games, Marquette has found an extra gear on offense after halftime, and that first Seton Hall game was no exception: 1.33 points per possession after going for “only” 1.18 per trip in the first 20 minutes. That doesn’t mean that Tyler Kolek and the guys are going to be able to easily do that to the Pirates again.... but it does mean that they found some things that work pretty well against them. Pretty dang well honestly, as it is MU’s sixth best offensive performance of the year and it was the third best of the year when it happened, trailing only the demolition of Baylor and the visit to Notre Dame.
Flipping things around, it’s a little bit interesting that the first meeting was a middle of the pack defensive performance by Marquette. Let’s be honest about it: Marquette’s not a great defensive team this season. Measuring by efficiency, the current ranking of #89 in the country is well off the pace of last season where they finished as KenPom’s #55 defense. Now, the lesser defense is balanced out by the offense going through the roof, but struggling to defend the Pirates is notable. Seton Hall is ranked #110 in the country in offensive efficiency per KenPom, and in league play, they’re ranked 7th.
Getting Seton Hall to cough the ball up wasn’t a problem for Marquette in the first meeting. The Pirates are averaging a turnover on 20.5% of possessions overall this year, but just 18% in Big East action and on their current hot streak, that number’s all the way down to 16.9%. But MU got them to give it away nearly 23% of the time, with all five starters finishing with two turnovers each, so the battle will be between the Golden Eagles’ intention to get more than 32 deflections in the game and Seton Hall’s more careful play as of late.
A big reason for MU’s defensive struggle against Seton Hall in late December won’t surprise you. The Pirates got to more than 38% of their missed shots in the game, MU’s sixth worst defensive rebounding game of the season. There’s no other way to say this: Four of Marquette’s five losses this season have come when the Golden Eagles give up more than 34% of the misses as an offensive rebound to the other team. It’s also something that happens regular to MU, as they do have a record of 7-4 while coughing up all those offensive rebounds, including posting their absolute low point of the season just this past Wednesday night against Providence while still coming away with the 83-75 victory. No one particular Pirate did damage in the previous meeting, but Jamir Harris was the only Seton Hall player who didn’t get an offensive rebound and four players finished the game with two each.
Seton Hall is a very good offensive rebounding team in the first place, which they kind of have to be since they don’t shoot the ball well. The Pirates connect on just 31% of their three-point attempts, but they know they’re not good there and focus on getting inside for their attempts. The problem is that they’re shooting just 50% inside the arc this season, although that’s up to nearly 52% in Big East games. That’s still only #6 in the league, though. Marquette let them shoot 58% inside the arc in Milwaukee, including a 5-for-5 night from Dre Davis, who ended up leading the team in scoring that night, and a 4-for-5 from starting center Tyrese Samuel.
Short version? Marquette’s probably not going to be able to do what they did on offense last time against Seton Hall, both because it’s on the road and because SHU has gotten a look at MU already. Conversely, the Golden Eagles are going to have to be a lot better on defense as the Pirates have seemingly tightened things up on offense over the past few games and MU already didn’t handle the Seton Hall attack particularly well outside of forcing turnovers.
Stat Watch: After six assists on Wednesday, Tyler Kolek is one assist away from tying and two away from passing Tony Smith for the 7th most assists by a Marquette junior. He’s also two away from tying Lloyd Walton for sixth place. I don’t think Kolek can get 16 assists in this one game and pass Aaron Hutchins for fifth place, but hey, he did have 15 against Georgetown, right?
Stat Watch #2: Oso Ighodaro has tied Chris Otule for the 10th most rejections by a Marquette junior, so obviously his next one will give him that spot all to himself. Three more will catch Scott Merritt in ninth, and four more will catch Walter Downing in eighth.
Stat Watch #3: Kam Jones is two three-pointers away from tying Justin Lewis for the 9th most made triples by a Marquette sophomore. He’s 13 away from tying Robb Logterman, so one step at a time for now.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2, with wins in six of the last seven games.
Seton Hall Last 10 Games: 6-4, with wins in four straight and five of the last six.
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 22-13
Current Streak: After sweeping the season series last season and winning in Milwaukee earlier this season, the Golden Eagles have won three straight against the Pirates.
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@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer