Johnson’s career game spurs Marquette over UT-Martin

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Johnson’s career game spurs Marquette over UT-Martin

Jajuan Johnson poured home a career high 20 points in Marquette's home opener against UT Martin. (Photo by Mike Cianciolo / michael.cianciolo@marquette.edu)

Jajuan Johnson poured home a career high 20 points in Marquette's home opener against UT Martin. (Photo by Mike Cianciolo / michael.cianciolo@marquette.edu)

Jajuan Johnson poured home a career high 20 points in Marquette's home opener against UT Martin. (Photo by Mike Cianciolo / michael.cianciolo@marquette.edu)

Jajuan Johnson poured home a career high 20 points in Marquette's home opener against UT Martin. (Photo by Mike Cianciolo / michael.cianciolo@marquette.edu)

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Jajuan Johnson was an unexpected starter on Friday night and took full advantage of the opportunity as his 20 points led Marquette to a 79-63 victory over the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks in the season opener at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The Skyhawks stuck around for much of the game and exploited Marquette’s most obvious flaw: rebounding. UT-Martin owned a 34-25 advantage on the glass against Marquette.

Johnson’s performance from the outside helped Marquette overcome a weakness inside. The highly-touted class of 2013 recruit from Memphis filled the stat sheet with a career-high 20 points along with four rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocks in a team-high 31 minutes.

Johnson was just one of four Golden Eagles in double figures. Juan Anderson had 16, Matt Carlino scored 11 and Deonte Burton poured in 10 points in the first half.

After playing inconsistent minutes as a freshman, Johnson saw plenty of time on the floor on Friday night. Anderson said he was impressed by the sophomore’s performance.

“Jajuan is good,” Anderson said. “He just has to mature and come with that same energy every single day. I think it’s easier to bring energy every day knowing you’re going to play every day.”

Head coach Steve Wojciechowski, who earned his first victory at Marquette, echoed his senior’s sentiments about Johnson.

“I thought JJ was the player of the game,” Wojciechowski said. “He was terrific on both ends of the floor when we needed big baskets, he came up with them. He was all over the place defensively. He really played like a veteran.”

Leading by only 11 points with 13 minutes remaining, the Golden Eagles went on an 8-0 run sparked by Johnson and Carlino to give Marquette a 17-point cushion they wouldn’t look back on.

Rebounding was a major issue for the Golden Eagles, who allowed 17 second-chance points off of 12 offensive rebounds on Friday night. Anderson said playing better on the glass is something his team must focus going forward.

“Rebounding is always going to be a concern,” Anderson said. “We can’t let teams out-rebound us. That team isn’t as big as teams we’re going to see in the future so we have to emphasize those things.”

The Golden Eagles managed to pull away thanks to stingy defense. Marquette’s high-pressure defense forced 19 Skyhawk turnovers that were converted into 22 points.

“I thought our pressure wore on them and overall I was very pleased with our defensive effort,” Wojciechowski said. “I think we got tired at the end, we don’t have the depth, but we’ll learn.”

Similar to the exhibition against Wisconsin Lutheran, Marquette started off sluggishly in the first half of action. The team led by merely eight points after the first frame and finished the half shooting just 46 percent after getting off to a hot start from the floor. The team did shoot 50 percent from the field in the second half, including 54 percent from 3-point land.

The Golden Eagles tested their limited depth on Friday night, as four players committed four fouls and senior guard Derrick Wilson did not play in the second half due to what Wojciechowski called a lower leg injury.

Marquette will certainly face a step up in caliber as the team travels to Columbus for a measuring bar game against 20th-ranked Ohio State. The Buckeyes clobbered UMass Lowell in their home opener by a score of 92-55.

“It’s a huge challenge and we’ll take that in due time,” Wojciechowski said. “Tonight we want to celebrate this win. Every win that you can get is a really good one. Tomorrow we’ll regroup, take a look at what we did tonight and start looking forward.”

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