Marquette’s pace, 3-point shooting ,and fast-break points fly the Golden Eagles past Rider, but lose Tyler Kolek in the process.
Fresh off an opening-night rout of Northern Illinois on Monday, complete with a Big East Championship banner reveal, the Marquette Golden Eagles took back to the court on Friday in Milwaukee to complete a two-game opening homestand against Rider University. A Hawaiian theme swept Fiserv Forum, promoting the upcoming Maui Invitational, but the focus remained on the task at hand as Marquette bounced MAAC preseason pick Rider 95-65.
Rider came into the game after putting up 113 points on D-III Immaculata, but struggled to find any kind of the same success against an immensely tougher Golden Eagles squad. Marquette held Rider to 39% shooting(31% in the first half) and ran out to an early lead on the back of hometown kid David Joplin, who shot a clean first half at 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from behind the arc. When asked about the success of David Joplin and Kam Jones’ hot shooting from the outside, head coach Shaka Smart said, “We like them shooting open 3’s. That’s a good possession for us…” Joplin and Jones combined to go 8-18 from deep as Marquette set an early season-high in point total.
Marquette pushed the pace all night, running away with 23 fastbreak points. On a night that saw the Golden Eagles outrebounded 39-37, running the floor became the reason for running away with the game. Kam Jones came away with 4 steals and sophomore guard Chase Ross put two highlight reel blocks onto the jumbotron for the fans to relive. The Golden Eagles further pushed the issue with pressure in the halfcourt multiple times throughout. It’s clear that coach Shaka Smart is finding footing with his rotations and creating the experience that his team needs in different situations.
Friday night also saw increased minutes for freshmen Tre Norman and Zaide Lowery, as they combined for 25 minutes of time on the floor. The early eyeballs see that Tre Norman may be more likely to receive meaningful minutes with his length and maturity on the floor, but as the tougher matchups creep closer, this remains to be seen. Oso Ighodaro did see meaningful minutes, leading all players with 29 minutes of action and flashed dominance on the inside claiming his first double-double of the season, finishing 13/11/4.
A quiet scoring night for reigning Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek(6/5/6) ended with 8:00 to go in the game when he twisted his ankle stepping on another player’s foot. Kolek quickly subbed himself out of the game and needed assistance getting to the locker room. “The status update from HIM was, “I’ll be fine”… but we’ll see how it responds.” was the update from Shaka Smart postgame. No update on Kolek’s status has been given ahead of the big Tuesday night showdown against #23 Illinois in Champaign.
Marquette sees their first true test of the season on Tuesday night when they head on the road to take on Illinois in what is likely to be a booming crowd at State Farm Center in Champaign with plenty of national attention.