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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

STARTING 5: Marquette takes Tom Izzo and Michigan State next in March Madness

Stevie Mitchell (4), Chase Ross (5) and Sean Jones (22) celebrate from Marquette’s bench during its win over Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament March 18 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – For the first time since 2013, Marquette has advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 2 seeded Golden Eagles (29-6, 17-3 Big East) will square off against Big Ten foe and No. 7 seed Michigan State (20-12, 11-8 Big Ten) Sunday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. CST inside Nationwide Arena with a trip to Madison Square Garden next weekend on the line for the East Regional.  

“We’re excited to be here, heading into the game against Michigan State tomorrow,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “I’ve always been a fan of Coach Izzo and his program and the way they play and the way they conduct themselves. And for us, it’s a heck of an opportunity to compete against them tomorrow night.”

Here are five things to look out for in Sunday’s matchup: 

Dual threat in Houser and Walker

Graduate student forward Joey Hauser and senior guard Tyson Walker will be the two Spartans that will cause problems for the Golden Eagles. 

Hauser, who transferred from Marquette to Michigan State in 2019, leads his team in 3-point shooting and rebounding. The All-Big Ten honorable mention averages 14.3 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting 46.5% from beyond the arc. 

“He’s been so good this year in a lot of ways,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “Sometimes, we’re not even getting him enough shots. And he’s just been a better rebounder. He’s taking care of his body like a pro guy. So he’s just done a lot of things. It’s been fun to watch.”

Houser spoke on his mentality going up against his former team.

“I don’t know any of the players or coaches there,” Hauser said. “It was a long time ago. So I don’t have any ill will towards them. But it’s just Michigan State versus Marquette.”

Walker is Michigan State’s leading scorer, averaging 14.5 points per contest. He netted 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting against USC Friday. 

“They do a really good job of attacking and getting in the paint,” Smart said about Michigan State’s guards. “And they seem like they’re passing the ball really well. Michigan State has a very good blend in their offense of on-ball and off-ball screening. And then Walker and Hauser and some of the other guys do a nice job using screens off the ball as well.”

Dominant defense 

Sunday’s game will be a battle as both these teams are defined by defense as of late. 

Marquette averages 9.3 steals per game and forces 15.9 turnovers per game. The Golden Eagles’ rank fourth in the nation in fast break points, averaging 15.4 per contest. 

“When anybody like me or Stevie or anybody, decides to pick up the ball pressure, it gives us energy to all feed off of,” first-year guard Sean Jones said. “And we like to feed off of each other’s energy. That’s something we preach and it helps our connectivity.”

On the other hand, Michigan State has strung together strong defensive performances in their recent games.

In their first round game against USC, the Spartans held the Trojans scoreless for over five minutes in the final half to seal the 72-62 win. They forced 11 turnovers and scored 16 points off those turnovers. 

Izzo said that his team is going to have to carry over that defensive mindset in order to be successful against Marquette.

“Defending is a choice if you’re a good defensive player,” Izzo said. “More importantly, it’s going to have to, because the way they play and as good as their guards are, it’s going to have to be that way. That’s one thing I do like about our matchups. We have good guards defensively and offensively and I think they do. So we’ll just have to make a choice that we play it.”

3-point shooting 

The Spartans do not shoot a lot of 3-pointers, but when they do, they go in. 

Michigan State takes 7.4 triples per game while shooting 39.4% from beyond the arc, which ranks fourth in the nation.

Houser, Walker and sophomore guard Jaden Akins are its main 3-pointer shooters. 

“We have to make sure we have a high hand contest,” Smart said. “They’re shooting the ball at a high rate. They have a lot of different guys making shots. But for us, we’ve got to make sure we’re aggressive. I thought when we had good defensive possessions yesterday, there was an aggressiveness about us. And we have to ramp that up even to another level.”

As for Marquette, sophomore forward David Joplin and sophomore guard Kam Jones are its main threats from the 3-point line.

Joplin is netting 40% of his 3-pointers while Jones has connected on 35.7% of his on the season.

“Coach challenged him (Kam Jones) in the huddle,” junior guard Tyler Kolek said about Friday’s win. “It wasn’t so much challenging him on offense, it was challenging him on defense. His defense leads to his offense. The more he realizes that, the more he gets into it on the defensive end. We needed his scoring a bunch on offense.”

Big man strength 

Michigan State has two centers on its roster that will make it difficult for Marquette to finish around the rim.

Junior center Mady Sissoko will use his 6-foot-9 stature to attack the glass, as he grabs 6.1 rebounds a game. 

First-year Carson Cooper, a late signee that joined the Spartans last May, is 6-foot-11 with the second largest wingspan on the team.  The Jackson, Michigan native scored a career-high six points and grabbed a career-high four rebounds against USC. 

“Defensively and on the glass, their bigs really play their role and they play with great aggressiveness,” Smart said. “They’re shooting the ball really well. So we have to get a high hand on them. We’ve got to be disruptive.”

Junior forward Oso Ighodaro is the tallest player in the starting lineup that controls the paint for the Golden Eagles. The All-Big East second team honoree is shooting 65.9% from the floor and pulls down a team-high 5.9 rebounds.

“I don’t think my role changes at all based on who we play,” Ighodaro said. “Like I said before, just trying to keep the same roles we’ve had all season. Trying to be our best and pressing our advantages.”

Veteran experience 

Michigan State is making its 25th straight appearance in March Madness, the longest in NCAA Tournament history. 

The Spartans enter Sunday’s contest with a more experienced starting lineup and bench than the Golden Eagles.

But facing a more experienced opponent isn’t something new for Marquette, as it has rattled off wins against some of the more veteran teams in the country this season.

And that mindset won’t change on Sunday.

“There’s nothing new that we can or will do in between yesterday’s games and tomorrow night’s game,” Smart said. “It’s about us being the best version of us. Our focus is on being the best version of Marquette on the offensive end, defensive end and most importantly, culturally — how we act, interact and respond for 40 minutes.”

This article was written by Kaylynn Wright. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @KaylynnWrightMU. 

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About the Contributor
Kaylynn Wright
Kaylynn Wright, Assistant Sports Editor
Kaylynn Wright is a sophomore from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin studying journalism, and she is an Assistant Sports Editor for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire, she enjoys reading and watching baseball, specifically the San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox. She is excited to meet new people and continue to create high-quality sports content for the Wire.

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