Marquette knocks off third-straight ranked opponent with win over Xavier

Graduate+student+Darryl+Morsell+%2832%29+finished+with+19+points+in+Marquette+mens+basketballs+75-64+win+over+No.+20+Xavier+Jan.+23.+

Photo by Alex DeBuhr

Graduate student Darryl Morsell (32) finished with 19 points in Marquette men’s basketball’s 75-64 win over No. 20 Xavier Jan. 23.

Coming off its biggest win of the season upsetting No. 11 Villanova on Wednesday night, Marquette men’s basketball team continued its winning ways Sunday afternoon defeating No. 20 Xavier by a score of 75-64. 

It was a special game on and off the court, as the team honored Marquette President Dr. Lovell in support of his battle with Sarcoma Sunday afternoon as fans wore gold throughout Fiserv Forum in honor of #LovellStrong. 

My family and I are so grateful and humbled by the overwhelming support of the @MarquetteU community,” Lovell said on his personal Twitter account.

Marquette’s balanced scoring and stifling defense has led the Golden Eagles to six-straight BIG EAST wins and three-straight wins over an AP Top 20 opponent. 

“What won us the game was defense down the stretch,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “We really played well on the defensive end from an aggressiveness standpoint, getting our hands on the basketball and then Justin Lewis grabbing the ball for us, 13 defensive rebounds is probably the most important stat of the game.” 

In a back-and-forth first half, which saw Marquette lead by as many as nine points, the Golden Eagles led 33-29 after 20 minutes of play. 

After hitting the game winning 3-pointer last time out, redshirt first-year forward Justin Lewis continued his stellar play in the first half as he poured in 13 points and five rebounds in the half alone.

Lewis finished the game with a game-high 20 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including 4-for-7 from deep, to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds.  

In the last two games, Lewis has gone 9-for-15 from beyond the arc, which is a stat that might surprise a few, but not Smart.  

“You got to give him credit for his work ethic,” Smart said. “I’m not surprised at all that he’s made nine threes in the last two games because his teammates are doing a great job finding him and he’s shooting with a lot of confidence.” 

The Musketeers stayed in the game in the first half by the play of senior guard Adam Kunkel, who poured in 10 points off the bench in just eight minutes.  

Marquette would put the clamps on Kunkel in the second half however, holding the guard to just a pair of free-throws in the final 20 minutes of the game.  

As a team however, Xavier would come out hot to start the second half, going 6-for-6 from the field to begin the period.  

The Musketeers would take a 53-48 lead with 14:05 left in the game after a Jack Nunge 3-pointer. Marquette would respond with catching fire from deep themselves after triples from Darryl Morsell and Greg Elliott gave Marquette back the lead 56-53 at the 12:22 mark.  

The Golden Eagles would not trail again after that, extending their lead to 68-60 with just over four minutes left to play.  

After both teams went cold for a few minutes down the stretch, Kam Jones would seal the deal on the Musketeers with 38 seconds remaining by hitting a 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of seven-foot center Jack Nunge. 

Jones finished the afternoon with 12 points off the bench on 5-for-9 shooting and two steals.  

Despite being just a first-year, Jones said he has the confidence of a veteran player when it comes to taking the big shot.  

“I know my teammates trust me to make my shot, so that boosts my confidence, always knowing every time I shoot my teammates and myself think it’s going in,” Jones said.  

Fellow first-year guard Stevie Mitchell attested to Jones’ ability to make any shot when on the court. 

“You should see the shots he makes when we’re playing 1-on-1,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell said he has earned the trust from Smart for his efforts on the defensive side of the ball.  

“I don’t really go in and try to score the ball necessarily, I just go in and try to make an impact on the game,” Mitchell said. “Coach Smart really emphasizes deflections, so that’s something I try to do as well.” 

Mitchell finished the afternoon with five rebounds, two points and two steals in 16 minutes off the bench for the Golden Eagles.  

Xavier closed the game going 1-for their last-11 from the field and went just 6-for-23 from deep throughout the game.  

Morsell finished with 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting and a season-high seven assists.  

“Darryl’s just playing with great aggressiveness,” Smart said. “When he’s focused on the right stuff and attacking and staying aggressive, he’s hard to deal with. He was able to get high-quality looks and he passed the ball well.” 

Marquette (14-6, 6-3 BIG EAST) will now travel back to the east coast for a matchup with Seton Hall Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. CST. 

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