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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Men’s basketball routs UMBC despite lack of perimeter shooting

Chris Reisner and Jack Phillips
Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

The beginning of Marquette basketball at a new home arena came with new defensive intensity. A year ago, 25 percent shooting from 3-point range would likely have crippled the Golden Eagles.

“We haven’t won a ton of games in the past on the defensive end,” head coach Steve Wojciechowski said.

Instead, it led to a 67-42 win over University of Maryland-Baltimore County in the first college basketball game at Fiserv Forum.

Marquette’s defense held UMBC to 23 percent shooting from the field and 21 percent shooting from the perimeter. The Golden Retrievers did not have a field goal in the last 3:43 of the game. No UMBC player had more than 11 points in the win.

“The story of the game was our defense,” Wojciechowski said. “On a night where our offense wasn’t as good as it is going to be, our defense was very sound throughout 40 minutes of basketball.”

UMBC’s 23 percent shooting was the lowest mark of a Marquette opponent in the Wojciechowski era.

“They did a really good job of switching, and it slowed us down,” UMBC head coach Ryan Odom said. “We paused a lot. You saw very few plays where our ball was moving. And when our ball is moving, it’s pretty hard to guard.”

UMBC junior guard Arkel Lamar led the Retrievers with nine first-half points, but Marquette limited him to two points in the second half. UMBC scored only 18 points in the second half.

Marquette sophomore center Theo John played a key part in that defense. He recorded 10 rebounds and three blocks in Tuesday’s rout. He also had 11 points, notching his first career double-double.

“He gave us an incredible spark off the bench,” Wojciechowski said. “A lot of the time, he was away from the basket having to guard shooting fives or, on switches, guards. He handled those situations really well.”

After outscoring opponents in the paint only four times in 18 regular season BIG EAST contests in 2017-‘18, Marquette had a 26-12 advantage in points in the paint in its nonconference season opener.

“Defense has been a huge key for us,” John said. “We got to take pride in it this year … With the depth that we have, we can do that and give 110 percent and send a new guy in.”

The depth allowed Marquette to play senior center Matt Heldt just over one minute.

“At the center position right now, there’s not a lot of separation, so you have to go with the guy that’s playing the best,” Wojciechowski said. “(Heldt) will do whatever it takes to for his team to win, and today it was to play two minutes. The next game it may be 32 minutes.”

The Golden Eagles did not waste any time opening the new building offensively, grabbing a 15-6 lead early in the first half. Junior Markus Howard had as many points as the entire UMBC roster in the first six minutes.

However, that offense did not remain consistent throughout the night. Marquette routinely went scoreless for three-plus minute stretches.

Howard, who led the country in 3-point shooting percentage his freshman season, shot 2 of 12 from long range. He found other ways to contribute, recording eight rebounds and seven assists. He also had a team-high plus-31 in the plus-minus category.

“I’m not concerned about Markus’ shooting,” Wojciechowski said. “(Howard is) going to make shots, and (Howard needs) to be aggressive. (Howard delivers) in crunchtime moments.”

The offensive lethargy allowed UMBC to cut Marquette’s lead to 25-21 in the first half, but the Golden Eagles used a 6-0 run to distance themselves from the Retrievers.

Marquette will have a three-day reprieve before hosting Bethune-Cookman University Saturday at 3 p.m. Central time. The Golden Eagles will then play three of their next four games either on the road or at neutral sites.

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