After the opener against Northern Illinois, the first thing out of Marquette men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart’s mouth on the radio was “that second half needed to be better.” His Golden Eagles tied with the Huskies at 42-all over the final 20 minutes as MU cruised to a 92-70 win.
On Friday night, in Game #2 against Rider? After staking themselves to a 17 point lead at halftime, Marquette pushed the margin out by another 13 points in the second half. They outscored Rider 46-33 on their way to a 95-65 win that was kind of never in doubt.
I have to say “kind of” because it was at least interesting early on. Yes, Marquette went up 7-0 right out of the gate and then 10-2 before three minutes went by.... but they didn’t lead by 10 until an Oso Ighodaro bucket with 8:04 left before intermission. In the middle of all of that, Rider got the score as close as three points and largely kept it within two possessions.
A transition bucket from Chase Ross with 10:52 to go kickstarted an 11-2 Marquette run that cracked the game wide open. That was powered by MU collecting seven straight stops. That’s two consecutive kills, which the team calls a skunk, and yes, there is a SKUNK ZONE graphic that goes up on the Fiserv Forum jumbotron to let us know that it’s about to happen, and then one extra stop on top of that.
MU was up 35-21 after the David Joplin triple that followed the seventh stop, a steal by Sean Jones officially, and the Golden Eagles were up as many as 20 in the first half before it settled at 17 at intermission.
17 is as close as Rider got in the second half. Kam Jones opened the scoring after the break with a three-pointer, and the closest that the visitors got after that was 18. A transition bucket from Kam Jones after a Broncs make made it a 20 point game, 59-39, and after Jones swiped the ball from Mervin James, the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year, on the ensuing possession and cashed a three after that, the lead never dipped below 20 again. A three from freshman Zaide Lowery with 11:28 to go made it a 30 point ball game for the first time, and a triple from walk on Cam Brown with less than a minute to go gave the Golden Eagles their largest lead of the game at 32.
With that being the case, the most interesting part of the second half was the exit of point guard Tyler Kolek. He appeared to step on a Rider player’s foot just before the eight minute mark, hobbled his way to the bench, and after Kam Jones drew a foul seconds later, Kolek hobbled off the court and down the tunnel, never to return to the bench.
As expected, he told the coaching staff that he was fine after the game, and given the time and score, there was no chance he was going back in the game if he had come back out to the arena after a re-tape. We’ll see what happens relative to MU’s next game coming up on Tuesday and then the trip to Hawaii one week after that.
Tyler Kolek told Shaka Smart after the game that he'll be fine (of course), but Smart said he will get treatment on ankle and he'll be back on the court when ready. #mubb— Ben Steele (@BenSteeleMJS) November 11, 2023
Marquette struggled to rebound the ball in this one, giving up a second chance on nearly 32% of Rider’s misses while pulling in less than 21% of their own misses for another try. That second one is less important when you’re putting up an effective field goal percentage of 65% and shooting 13-for-30 from long range, but the first one is definitely a problem. The Golden Eagles finished last season with opponents grabbing a miss just under 32% of the time, and that was bottom 50 in the country stuff.
With that said, the defense was clearly good as a whole, holding Mervin James to 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting and forcing him into five of Rider’s 16 turnovers. The Broncs shot just 39% from the field and only 26% from long range, ultimately finishing with 0.87 points per possession. You can live with the rebounding problem with that kind of defense, but it’s hard to do that every single night.
Kam Jones led Marquette in scoring, going for 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting, including 5-for-11 from long range. Jones also added six rebounds, four assists, and four steals, and that’s some really dangerous stuff from Gary Parrish’s Little Homie From Memphis. Oso Ighodaro had a double-double on 13 points and a team high 11 rebounds, while David Joplin and Chase Ross joined them in Double Digit Points Town with 11. Sean Jones and Tyler Kolek ended up tying for the team high in assists with six.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: Marquette is off until Tuesday when they make the trip down to Champaign to face Illinois in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. The Illini are ranked #25 in the country in the preseason AP poll and have opened the season with an easy win over Eastern Illinois and a not-so-easy 11 point win over Oakland on Friday night.