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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

PREVIEW: No. 25 Marquette looks to continue recent success against No. 6 UConn

(Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

No. 25 Marquette will kick-off perhaps its most important week of the Big East regular season Wednesday night when it welcomes in the No. 6 ranked UConn Huskies into Fiserv Forum.

The Golden Eagles have won seven of their last eight games, with the lone loss coming Dec. 20 at Providence in double-overtime.

In its last game Jan. 7 against Georgetown, Marquette came out slugging in the first half, only scoring 34 points on 41% shooting from the field. The Hoyas led as large as seven points one point in the half at the 11:37 mark before junior forward Oso Ighodaro responded back with a dunk on the other end which sparked a 7-0 run for the Golden Eagles to even the score at 21-21.

Both sides traded baskets down the stretch until sophomore guard Primo Spears hit a mid range jumper to give Georgetown  a 36-34 half time lead.

“Thought in the first half, our guys did a lot of really good things but we were missing a little bit of the connective tissue that allows us to be great on the defensive end,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “And therefore we didn’t make them (Georgetown) miss enough, shot 54% from the field.

Marquette was able to over come a sluggish first half, scoring 61 points in the second and shooting 68.5% from the field as well as 10-of-15 from the three point line. Junior guard Tyler Kolek only had seven points but dished the ball out well on his way to 15 assists and zero turnovers.

“It’s just the empowerment from my coaches,” Kolek said. “To have an assist, guys have to hit shots so they have done a great job helping me help them.”

Sophomore guard Kam Jones finished the afternoon as the leading scorer with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

UConn comes into this game dropping two of its last three games after starting the season 14-0. The Huskies lost to then-No. 22 Xavier on New Years Eve and Providence Jan. 4 before taking down Creighton Jan. 7 at Gampel Pavillion.

After trailing by three with over nine minutes left in the half, UConn went on an extended 21-10 run to take a 37-29 lead heading into the break.

Each side traded buckets to start the second half, but it was Creighton who would go on the first big run of the half. The Blue Jays were able to take one point lead, 43-42 as part of an 12-4 run for over three minutes.

UConn would respond as it took an 11 point lead, 56-45 with 8:27 to play as part of a 14-2 run. It was capped off by an AND-one layup from first-year center Donovan Clingan.

Creighton did cut the lead back down to six, 59-53 with 4:27 left, but that was as close as the Blue Jays would get. UConn held for a nine point win, 69-60.

“Coming off playing in two of the tougher environments in the league (Xavier, Providence), it was great to get back in here.” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said to “I just thought our guys were able to get past two disappointing performances, turn off the negative noise and move forward to get an important win.”

Junior forward Adama Sanogo bounced back after only putting up 11 points in 27 minutes against the Friars. The Bako, Mali native put up 26 points, nine rebounds while shooting 50% from the field.

The Huskies have only one ranked win on the season with it coming against the No. 18 Alabama Nov. 25. UConn currently sits at the No. 3 overall spot in the KenPom rankings, with a ninth spot in offense (115.4) and fifth in defense (87.8).

Sanogo and sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins are the leading scorers for UConn, averaging 17.9 and 14.8 points respectively.

Hurley’s team has hung their hat on the defensive end of the floor as they are No. 1 in scoring defense (61.4), defensive field goal percentage (39.3%), and defensive 3-Pointer percentage (28.2) amongst all Big East teams.

The key matchup to watch will be between Sanogo, Clingan and redshirt first-year forward Alex Karaban for UConn and Ighodaro, junior forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper and first-year forward Ben Gold.

The Huskies sit at No.2 in rebounding margin (8.4) in the Big East, while the Golden Eagles sit 10th at -2.7.

For Marquette, it has four players averaging 10 or more points a night with Jones (16.1), Prosper (14.5), Ighodaro (11.5) and sophomore forward David Joplin (10.2).

Sophomore guard Stevie Mitchell has found a bit of a grove offensively as of late, averaging 14 points and two assists while shooting 65% from the field (17-of-26) and 67% from beyond the arc (6-for-9).

The Golden Eagles have been swept by the Huskies for two straight seasons and now trail in the all-time series 7-6. Marquette hasn’t beaten UConn since New Year’s Day 2013, 82-76 in overtime.

Wednesday night’s game will be broadcasted on the CBS Sports Network with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. CST.

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

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