Monday night’s Marquette men’s basketball season opener was a lot of things, not just a 92-70 victory for the #5 ranked Golden Eagles.
It was a showcase of what Marquette is capable of, as they scored 1.26 points per possession and gave up just 0.96.
Marquette was able to show patience, as the first six minutes or so was a back and forth affair, but the Golden Eagles never seemed bothered by the Huskies giving them some fight.
It was a little bit on the sloppy side, perhaps primarily because it felt like and looked like head coach Shaka Smart was experimenting with his lineups in a live fire game. Guys that you wouldn’t think would sub in for each other did exactly that over and over in this game as MU either wanted to see what kinds of things worked best together or merely wanted to put the lineup combinations on tape for Illinois and the teams in the Maui Invitational.
Things took off for Marquette just after the 14 minute mark when Oso Ighodaro scored to make it 15-10 for the home team. MU finished off a kill, one of at least 10 in the game for the Golden Eagles, and along the way scored in transition twice to go up 19-10. A three-pointer from Chase Ross with 10:32 to go in the first half pushed the margin to double digits for the first time and tripped off an 8-0 burst for MU.
The lead hit 20 for the first time in the first half on a free throw from Ben Gold with 3:32 to play, and a pair of freebies created in transition by David Joplin allowed the Golden Eagles to go to the locker room with their biggest lead of the game at 50-28.
The lead would flutter up to 25 early after intermission, but NIU fought back, eventually whittling the margin down to just 14 on an and-1 play by Zion Russell with 12:55 to play. It didn’t feel like Marquette was losing the plot, just not quite 100% in sync and making the best right play every single time. This was especially true on the defensive glass where the Huskies pulled in just short of 40% of their misses in the game, giving them 18 second chance attempts in 40 minutes.
Another 8-0 run was punctuated by a gigantic dunk by a cutting Gold off an offensive rebound for Marquette — 42% of their own misses, dontcha know — on Gold’s own missed three. It was freshman Zaide Lowery who saw the big Kiwi make the move to the rim and he hit his sophomore teammate perfectly for the rim rattler.
That had Marquette up 22 with 9:57 to play, and functionally ended the game. The closest NIU got the rest of the way was just 19 points, even though Marquette never led by more than 24.
Kam Jones had a game high 20 points to go with three rebounds and four assists, and let me tell you, Marquette’s going to be hard to beat if he does that every night. Perhaps most notably, Jones went 3-for-4 inside the arc after shooting what was thought to be an impossible to repeat 64% on twos last season. Tyler Kolek (14), Oso Ighodaro (13), and Chase Ross (12) all joined Jones in double digit scoring town, while Ighodaro and Ben Gold tied for the team lead in rebounds. Kolek matched Jones with four assists, which counts as light work for the senior from Rhode Island.
All three freshmen made their debut in this game, with Tre Norman and Zaide Lowery both playing 12 minutes each and Al Amadou only getting in the game in the closing minutes. Still, all three gentlemen had at least one bucket to their name along the way, including Amadou’s big ol’ putback dunk seconds after checking in for the first time all game.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: Marquette will return to action on Friday night when Rider comes to Fiserv Forum for a 7:30pm tipoff on FS1. The Broncs picked up a 113-67 win over something called Immaculata on Monday night, and were led by 18 points from Mervin James.