Marquette rides hot start versus NC Central in final home non-conference action of the season

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Photo by Keifer Russell

Junior forward Oso Ighodaro finishes off a dunk in Marquette men’s basketball’s 90-78 win over NC Central Dec. 6 at Fiserv Forum.

The Marquette Golden Eagles shined brighter and flew higher than the NC Central Eagles Tuesday night in Fiserv Forum on their way to a 90-78 victory.

“Really was impressed by the way our guys started the game, getting their hands on the basketball,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “(I) thought our guys shared the ball terrific in the first half. We turned the ball over too much in the first half and the second half which combined with the free throw shooting, to me is just a matter of sharpening focus.”

In the game Marquette had 16 turnovers which was the same amount that NC Central had on the other side.

Marquette opened the game by going on a 9-0 scoring run including sophomore guard Kam Jones first career dunk.

“That was great. That was definitely an EGB (energy generating behavior),” sophomore guard Stevie Mitchell said. “He said he wanted to throw it down a little harder, but we’re glad he made it, we’re glad he got his dunk.”

NC Central got on the board with a layup from graduate student center Brendan Medley-Bacon. The Golden Eagles were quick to respond as junior forward Olivier Maxence-Prosper scored seven-straight points to give Marquette a 14-2 lead with 16:58 on the clock.

“He’s very efficient with his scoring and he plays hard so it’s a lot of high quality shots that he takes and he’s very good at getting those high quality shots,” Mitchell said.

Junior forward Oso Ighodaro picked up his fifth assist of the game less than five minutes into the game.

The Golden Eagles stayed in control as Mitchell hit a jumper to give Marquette a 32-16 lead. Mitchell then took a charge on the defensive end.

Prosper continued to be an offensive spark, as he looked to be a man on a mission following his 14 point outing against Wisconsin. He matched that total on a crafty drive, spin and finish with his left hand to give Marquette a 46-25 lead and force NC Central to call their second timeout of the half.

Marquette went into halftime with 24 deflections and a 52-29 lead.

“We had 24 deflections in the first half which is a great indicator for us of our energy,” Smart said.

Jones got back on the scoresheet early in the second half by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers after starting 0-for-3 from deep, giving Marquette a 66-45 lead.

The game stayed steady as Marquette’s lead hovered around 20 points.

In the waning minutes of the game, the sparse Marquette crowd cheered for NC Central free-throw misses to get free shakes from Shake Shack. This was to no avail as NC Central went to the free throw line just once in that span.

After shooting 7-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half Marquette went 2-for-13 in the second.

“That was a spirit thing,” Smart said. “I think when you’re playing with a sharp edge and you’re focused and you have great energy and spirit, the basketball God’s take the basketball and they put it in the basket.

“When you’re a half step off, or you’re a little bored with the game or you think the game’s over, or you don’t have the same sharp edge, the basketball God’s take that same ball and they they make it hit off the back of the rim and go out.”

Marquette ultimately finished the second half being outscored 49-38.

Prosper led the way for Marquette, finishing with 25 points, four rebounds, two assists and one block.

As a team Marquette shot 36-for-57 from the field and 9-for-23 from 3-point range as NC Central shot 29-for-63 from the field and 9-for-20 from 3-point range.

Ighodaro also contributed to the win with 10 points, four rebounds, a career-high seven assists and three blocks.

“It’s point-Oso,” first-year guard Chase Ross said. “If you got a five-man man that can pass the ball, it’s very versatile for our team.”

Next up for Marquette (7-3) is Notre Dame (6-2, 0-1 ACC) who on the road Sunday at 3:30 p.m. CST.

This article was written by Ben Schultz. He can be reached at b[email protected] or on Twitter @benschultz52.