Marquette bounces back with 80-66 win over Northern Illinois

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Photo by John Leuzzi

Redshirt first-year forward Justin Lewis (left) dribbles the ball on the baseline in Marquette’s 80-66 win over Northern Illinois Nov. 27.

After dropping its first game of the season to then No. 22 St. Bonaventure in the championship game of the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic last Sunday, the Marquette men’s basketball team returned to action Saturday night defeating the Northern Illinois Huskies 80-66.  

Marquette’s balanced scoring attack throughout the night helped the Golden Eagles improve to 6-1 on the season while remaining undefeated at Fiserv Forum.  

The Golden Eagles found success in the contest after head coach Shaka Smart went towards his bench early after taking out all five of his starters only four minutes into the game.  

“We’re fortunate we have some guys to come off the bench and give us a lift and that’s exactly what they did,” Smart said.  

Marquette’s bench outscored the Huskies bench 35-5 on the night and was a key factor throughout the game.  

“We have 11 guys on scholarship that play for us, and all those guys are capable of coming in the game and impacting our team if they’re minds are clear, but that’s not a given,” Smart said. “I thought we learned a lot from that St. Bonaventure game of what happens when frustration sets in over the course of the game and hopefully that’s something our guys can utilize going forward.” 

First-year guard Stevie Mitchell scored nine first-half points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting coming off the bench in the first half. Mitchell would finish the night with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists.  

“When I got my opportunity to go in, I wanted to play with energy and play hard and just be a spark off the bench,” Mitchell said. “I was just taking what the defense was giving me and my teammates were creating a lot of shots for me.”  

Deflections have been a huge emphasis on the defensive end for Marquette so far this season with 32 being the goal for every game. Tonight, Marquette well-reached that goal with 44 thanks to the help of Mitchell.  

“Stevie’s a guy that has a purity for winning, he wants to win and he wants to help his team,” Smart said. “I thought Stevie just did a great job of executing our game plan on the defensive end, if you have a guy in there who’s getting a lot of deflections it goes a long way towards your goal.” 

At the half, Marquette led 39-28 after shooting 56% from the field in the first 20 minutes of the game.  

Redshirt first-year forward Justin Lewis led the Golden Eagles with 11 first-half points. Lewis would finish the game with a team-high 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting and six rebounds.  

Smart said Lewis has been one of Marquette’s most consistent players so far this season as he’s scored at least 15 points in every game.  

“I really liked his efficiency tonight, to get 15 points on only seven shots says a lot about him,” Smart said. “He’s been very consistent, so that consistency and growth he’s shown is impressive, he’s off to a really good start this season.”  

Despite going 3-for-10 from the 3-point line in the first half, the Golden Eagles would find their rhythm from beyond the arc coming out of the break as Marquette would shoot 3-for-5 from 3-point land in the first six minutes of the second half.  

Back-to-back 3-pointers from redshirt first-year guard Tyler Kolek and first-year forward David Joplin gave Marquette its biggest lead at the time at 56-39 with 12:17 left in the game.  

The Golden Eagles would lead by double-digits for the entire second half despite a few runs by the Huskies enroute to the home victory.  

Northern Illinois was led by sophomore guard Keshawn Williams who had 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting from the field. In total, the Huskies had four players score in double figures throughout the game including senior forward Zool Kueth finishing with 14 points and junior guard Kaleb Thornton with 12 points.  

The Golden Eagles also had four players in double figures themselves with Kolek and graduate student guard Darryl Morsell both recording 10 points for the Golden Eagles.  

Marquette (6-1) will now finish its second game of the short two-game homestand on Tuesday night against Jackson State. Tuesday night’s contest against the Tigers is set for 8 p.m. Central Standard Time.  

This article was written by Sam Arco. He can be reached at samuel.arco@marquette.edu or on Twitter @SamArcoMU.