In a back-and-forth game of youth versus experience, scoring runs and scoring droughts, Marquette wins thrilling Maui Invitational opener over UCLA.
With a fresh, flowery lane on the court, the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu opened its doors on Monday for the much anticipated 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational. After three competitive matchups, the nightcap saw Marquette face off against UCLA in a game that would most certainly tie a bow on an entertaining day of college hoops. On a night that Marquette was outshot from the field, the three-point line, and the free throw line, and also saw themselves outrebounded, the Marquette Golden Eagles were able to come away with a thrilling 2-point victory over UCLA in the opening round of the Allstate Maui Invitational.
Many didn’t quite know what to expect as Shaka Smart’s experienced Golden Eagles squad took the floor against Mick Cronin’s young and talented Bruins, but what we got was a game of scoring runs and droughts, experience, youth, and an electric second half that took us back to what it feels like to watch college basketball in March.
The first half played out like two boxers, circling and figuring out their opponent. UCLA found themselves with the momentum early, as Mick Cronin’s rotate-and-recover defense was able to defend Marquette’s halfcourt sets by cutting off the lane and contesting outside shots. UCLA held Marquette to just 38.7% shooting in the first half and only 27.8% from behind the arc. They opened up just 3-14 from the outside, including a 4-minute scoring drought. Hometown kid David Joplin was the only one who could really get anything going, putting up 10 points on 10 shots in the first half, including two three’s to keep the game close when it looked like UCLA could open things up. UCLA responded well to Marquette’s pressure defense and spread the ball on their way to 46.2% shooting and a 5-point halftime lead.
The second half was a true display of scoring runs and scoring droughts, and youth versus experience. UCLA ran out on an 8-0 scoring run early in the second half, accompanied by yet another Marquette 4-minute scoring drought. The Bruins saw their lead swell to a game-high 12 points before Marquette came back with a 17-0 run out of a well-timed Shaka Smart timeout. “Our team got rattled. We lost our composure and we weren’t able to get it back…” were the words from UCLA head coach Mick Cronin postgame.
Marquette forced timely turnovers and were able to get open shots in transition, while UCLA made the young mistakes that you see from teams littered with underclassmen early in the season. David Joplin added three more makes from beyond the arc and Oso Ighodaro was able to establish his game in the paint, including a monster dunk that was sure to amplify those still awake at 12:30am back in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles’ poise late in the game by making shots and forcing turnovers was just enough to hold off a young Bruins team 71-69.
David Joplin led all scorers with 19 points, All-American Tyler Kolek finished with 9 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds, and Oso Ighodaro scored 9 of his 14 points in the final 12 minutes.
The Marquette Golden Eagles continue their quest in Hawaii with a tough and quick turnaround on Tuesday against the #1 team in the nation, Kansas at 10:30pm est on ESPN.