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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Late heroics and relentless defense lead to National Marquette Day victory

Photo by Isabel Bonebrake
Redshirt first-year forward Justin Lewis (10) goes in for a slam dunk in Marquette men’s basketball’s 64-56 win over Butler Feb. 26 on National Marquette Day.

After losing three of its last four games entering Saturday afternoon, the Marquette men’s basketball team bounced back and avoided the season sweep against Butler winning 64-56 on National Marquette Day at Fiserv Forum.  

“Today was a challenging game in a lot of ways, but I thought our guys responded well,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “Our guys did a great job staying together and locking in on the defensive game plan.” 

Both sides came out firing to start the game as Butler took a 23-14 lead with 12:24 left in the first half.  

Butler began the game going 10-for-15 shooting from the field, similar to how the Bulldogs started the game against Marquette when they defeated the Golden Eagles 85-79 on Feb. 12 in Indianapolis. 

Despite an early nine-point deficit, an 8-0 run by Marquette capped off by a David Joplin 3-pointer got the Golden Eagles back into the game as it cut the Butler lead down to 23-22 with 9:24 left in the first half. 

After what seemed like Butler scoring at will to start the game, Marquette’s defense picked up the intensity and forced the Bulldogs to go scoreless for over five minutes of play near the end of the first half.  

The Golden Eagles also had its fair share of struggles on the offensive end in the first half, going 3-for-13 from the 3-point line in the opening 20 minutes.  

Redshirt first-year forward Justin Lewis, who leads the team in scoring with 16.6 points per game, went 0-for-6 from the field in the first half. It was the first time all season that Lewis hadn’t scored in a single half of play.  

Despite a total of zero points combined in the first half from Lewis and redshirt first-year guard Tyler Kolek, Marquette only trailed 33-30 at the break. 

Butler forward Bryce Golden had a then game-high 10 points for the Bulldogs in the first half. Bolden finished with a team-high 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting for Butler.  

Both sides continued to struggle from the field coming out of halftime, combining to go just 1-for-11 from beyond the arc in the first eight minutes of play in the second half.  

Marquette found valuable minutes from first-year guard Stevie Mitchell off the bench in the second half as the Reading, Pennsylvania, native was a bit of everywhere on both sides of the ball.

“He’s a stud man, his approach to everything is just great, all he cares about is winning,” Morsell said. “He hadn’t played up to that point the whole game, but he was ready when his turn came and that’s what a team needs if you want to be a good team and make a run.” 

Mitchell finished with five points, two steals and an assist in just 11 minutes of play for Marquette. 

After a Darryl Morsell floater in the paint, Marquette regained the lead 48-47 at the 8:50 mark for their first lead in the game since the 19:28 mark in the first half.  

Lewis played more like the BIG EAST Player of the Year candidate that he is in the second half as a monstrous dunk over two Butler defenders put the Fiserv Forum in a frenzy and gave Marquette a 50-47 lead.   

Morsell then hit a huge 3-pointer in the corner with just under five minutes to play to give Marquette its biggest lead of the game at 57-51.  

With a minute and a half remaining, Butler guard Bo Hodges missed a crucial pair of free throws. Kam Jones would then make the Bulldogs pay with a hesitation layup giving Marquette a 61-54 lead with just 1:03 left.  

“Kam Jones is one of the best freshmen I’ve ever been around in my life,” Smart said. “I didn’t think today was one of his best games, but he made a big bucket for us late… his best basketball is ahead of him.” 

Down the stretch, Marquette iced the game with free throws from Morsell and relentless defense that was displayed throughout the second half.  

Morsell finished the afternoon with 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting with four rebounds and two assists. Lewis was the only other Marquette player to score in double figures, posting 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.   

After allowing 23 points to Butler in the first eight minutes, Marquette’s defense would only give up 33 points in the remaining 32 minutes of the game.  

The Golden Eagles’ defense down the stretch was a main factor in the victory.  

“Butler’s a good team, they’re going to make shots and make plays if you let them,” Smart said. “After that initial stretch (first eight minutes) I thought our guys did a good job, (on defense).” 

Marquette also forced 16 Butler turnovers on the afternoon while only committing nine themselves. These mistakes provided costly for the Bulldogs as Marquette had 22 points off their turnovers.  

Marquette (18-10, 10-7 BIG EAST) remains in fifth place in the BIG EAST standings with the victory Saturday afternoon.

The Golden Eagles will now make the short trip to Chicago to take on DePaul March 2. Wednesday night’s matchup with the Blue Demons is set for 8 p.m. CST where the Golden Eagles will look for the season sweep.  

 This story was written by Sam Arco. He can be reached by [email protected] or @SamArcoMU.

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