Marquette earns highest ranked victory in Shaka Smart Era in win over No. 6 Baylor

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Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Head coach Shaka Smart celebrates from the bench in his team’s 96-70 upset win over No. 6 Baylor Nov. 29 at Fiserv Forum.

The Marquette men’s basketball team secured its highest ranked win in the Shaka Smart Era Tuesday night behind a familiar ingredient, defense.

Smart’s squad forced a season-high 20 turnovers as it took down No. 6 Baylor by a score of 96-70 at Fiserv Forum in the Big 12-Big East Battle.

It is the largest margin deficit for the Bears in program history as an AP Top 10 team.

“Really happy for everybody involved in Marquette basketball, our players, our staff, our fans and our students,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “Thought our guys in the first half set a great tone just getting our hands on the basketball. When you go into a game and the game is bigger in the minds of your players than anything else, to me, that’s the best recipe for winning. And it should be that way all the time. Got a lot of contributions from a lot of different guys.”

The Bears jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead over the Golden Eagles as senior guard Adam Flager hit a mid-range shot to give Baylor the five point lead into the under-16 media timeout.

Then after the timeout, Marquette took over defensively and found itself offensively.

A 32-7 extended run during a span of 7:59 set the tone on offense for the Golden Eagles. Junior forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper scored 10 of the 28 points without missing a shot while Marquette as a team shot 14-for-16 from the field during that stretch. 

Baylor was 3-for-7 from field and turned over the ball seven times over that span.

“It makes you want more and it makes you hungrier to see the look on their face when we make our runs and get out in transition,” sophomore forward David Joplin said. “Chase (Ross) getting his dunks and Sean (Jones), him too, when they came into the game it really impacted us. It took a toll on them (Baylor) and once we see that we are hungry.”

Smart said he credits his team’s run to earning deflections.

“That was the biggest thing,” Smart said. “We were getting our hands on the basketball. We emphasize deflections as much as anything in our program. 32 (deflections) is very hard to get against an an offensive team like Baylor. ”

With less than two minutes to go until halftime, Marquette forced its 16th turnover of the half marking a new season-high amount of turnovers for Baylor.

“First half, really surprised (that) we didn’t do a better job handling the pressure since we really pride ourselves (on that),” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “Our assist rate was one of the best coming in and we have guards that have dealt with pressure. Didn’t see that coming.”

Sophomore guard Kam Jones hit a deep 3-pointer right at the buzzer to send the Golden Eagles into halftime with a 51-25 lead.

Marquette’s 51 first half points was the most amount of points Baylor has given up in the first half all season.

The start to the second half was a bit more even keel as Baylor hit seven of its first 10 shots in the half, bringing the deficit to 64-41 forcing Smart to call a timeout.

“We knew they were going to come out aggressive. I didn’t think our defensive aggressiveness was anywhere near as good the second half, we were able to tie the second half with our offense,” Smart said.

Marquette’s offense remained hot hitting 10 of its 19 shots from the field down the stretch, as the Golden Eagles cruised their way to a 96-64 victory.

Prosper finished with a game-high 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the field. The Montreal, Quebec native’s 24 points is the most single-individual-game-high amount of points Baylor has given up this season.

Along with Prosper’s 24 points, Jones and Joplin combined for 39 points on the night.

It is the first time this season that Baylor has allowed two opposing players to reach at least 20 points in a game.

Smart said Jones and Joplin are effortless scorers.

“Probably always going to be a fight between me and them because those guys are like ‘let me rock out’ and I’m like “play defense and rock out on that end,'” Smart said. “Those two guys roll out of bed scoring and for them to have 20 and 19 points, not surprising. They’re capable of doing that.”

Junior guard Tyler Kolek finished the game by tying his career high in assists with 11, while also grabbing four steals on the night.

“Teams are playing him to pass and he’s still getting assists, I think what he is doing really well is he’s attacking them on the dribble and still finding ways to force help and then finding a teammate,” Smart said.

Prior to the game, the team honored the late George Thompson. The former all-time leading scorer Thompson would have been 75-years-old today but passed away in June at the age of 74 from complications to diabetes. 

“I really felt like we needed to win tonight to honor George,” Smart said. “(If) we’re going to make it George Thompson night, we couldn’t lose.” 

Marquette will now shift its focus to earning its second quality win of the week when it takes in-state rival Wisconsin Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CST at Fiserv Forum.

I still have the feeling of when we lost last year at Wisconsin so I’m really looking forward to it,” Jones said. 

This article was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU.