Marquette pulls out close contested victory in season opener


Photo by Collin Nawrocki

Graduate student guard Darryl Morsell (32) and first-year guard Kam Jones (1) in Marquette men’s basketball’s 88-77 win over SIUE Nov. 9.

It is finally basketball season at Marquette as the now Shaka Smart led Golden Eagles hosted Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday night for their season opener, coming away with an 88-77 win.

The game was tightly contested throughout the first half as Marquette’s defense forced 15 SIUE turnovers, but the Cougars went into the break shooting 62% from the field and were trailing the Golden Eagles by just one, 39-38.

Despite forcing those 15 turnovers, the Golden Eagles shot just 38.5% from the field offensively. That included going 4-for-18 from beyond the 3-point line.

In the second half, foul trouble played a big factor as both teams were in the bonus with more than 12 minutes still left to play.

Marquette led for almost the entire second half, but SIUE was within six with less than a minute to play but failed to lower the deficit any more than that.

Graduate student guard Darryl Morsell led the way for Marquette in scoring with 21 points while also collecting four rebounds and two assists.

“I just tried to get downhill and make plays,” Morsell said. “We needed a spark, I found success with it early and I just kept going with it.”

Morsell, who won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year at Maryland last season, said he wants to be a leader on both ends of the court this year.

“We got a lot of young guys, and i’m just trying to lead the entire team offensively and defensively,” Morsell said. “Coach was on me at halftime for settling, so I just tried to make plays.”

Morsell was one of three Marquette guards who had a big impact offensively tonight including redshirt first-year guard Tyler Kolek and first-year guard Stevie Mitchell.

Mitchell came off the bench to score 14 points as well as dishing out four assists and grabbing four rebounds in his first collegiate game.

“I thought Stevie was great, he gave us a huge lift,” Smart said. “He attacked, made some nice passes and took care of the ball well. He has a bright future here.”

Kolek, who was the primary ball-handler tonight, scored 10 points and had a career-high nine assists. He also made a big impact defensively in the press collecting three steals and grabbing two boards.

“Tyler is a magician in the pick and roll, he sees the floor really well,” Morsell said. “I always call him a gamer because he’s always going to come and make plays. I love playing with Tyler.”

Two returning forwards from last year’s team also had impact nights in redshirt first-year Justin Lewis and redshirt first-year Oso Ighodaro.

Lewis posted his first career double-double as he dropped 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting and collected a team-high 11 rebounds. He also added two steals, a block and an assist on the night.

“I’m proud of Justin finding a way to be resilient and respond,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought he did a really good job regulating himself during the game. Hopefully with him getting a double-double, the goal is to do it again.”

Ighodaro came off the bench to go 3-for-3 from the field, scoring a career-high seven points. He also grabbed three rebounds and two steals, making an impact with his length and size after only playing in five games last season with limited minutes.

“The game has slowed down for me playing and practicing a year in college basketball,” Ighodaro said. “My confidence has went up this year. I’m just trying to play hard and do what I can to help the team.”

The pressure from the Golden Eagles defense continued in the second half as they ended up forcing a total of 24 turnovers. They utilized a full court press throughout most of the game.

“We had good activity early forcing some of those turnovers,” Smart said. “It takes a real maturity to say stopping them matters more to me than scoring on them, and I thought we had that sometimes, but we were a half-step off on other possessions.”

Smart has been known for his pressure defenses in his coaching career at VCU and Texas, but it is a new look for Marquette from previous years under former head coach Steve Wojciechowski.

“Marquette is in good hands, he’s a good coach and he’s relentless,” SIUE men’s basketball head coach Brian Barone said. “They took advantage of every opportunity when we were hesitant.”

This game was a homecoming for Barone, who played for Marquette as a guard in the 1999-00 and 2000-01 seasons back when Marquette was a member of Conference USA.

“This place is home,” Barone said. “It was special to be back here to compete, I love this place.”

This win marks the first win for Smart at Marquette, adding to his resume with now 273 career wins combined between VCU, Texas and now Marquette.

Marquette (1-0) will be in action Friday at Fiserv Forum when they host New Hampshire at 7:30 p.m. CST.

“Great stuff to take out of this game for our team,” Smart said. “I’m excited for our opportunity to grow.”

This story was written by Matthew Yeazel. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @MJYeazel.