“It felt like The Forum in the 80’s with all the celebrities in the building today,” said head coach Shaka Smart postgame after his Marquette team got even with Seton Hall in a 75-57 win at Fiserv Forum. There has been a lot of action in and around Milwaukee lately, and it all seemed to show up in the same place on Saturday.
Former Marquette standout and NBA veteran Wesley Matthews was rightfully inducted into the Marquette Hall of Fame and was honored at halftime. Marquette alum Doc Rivers, whose retired #31 jersey hangs high in the rafters at Fiserv Forum, was introduced as the Bucks new head coach, where he will now share an arena with his alma mater. And Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love was even in attendance, fresh off a playoff run. The energy was high in the arena, and the Golden Eagles matched it with a stellar performance, avenging a tough loss to Seton Hall earlier in the year.
Marquette and Seton Hall last met back on January 6th in Newark, where the Golden Eagles were handed a tough 78-75 road loss. In perhaps the most disappointing loss of the season, Marquette let that game slip away, and they were determined not to let that happen again. Circumstances being different for this one, Seton Hall was without Big East Player of the Year candidate Kadary Richmond for the second straight game due to “soreness,” with no other injury designation disclosed, and Marquette without Sean Jones, Chase Ross, and a very limited Kam Jones, who turned his ankle in practice on Friday. Kam Jones only ended up logging 5 minutes before he was pulled, but a team effort from the Golden Eagles ended up being the difference.
Marquette and Seton Hall traded blows throughout the first half, with Marquette edging out a 30-29 halftime lead. Both teams shot 40% from the field, and where Marquette was outrebounded, they offset with frantic defense and forced turnovers. The Golden Eagles got hot in the second half, relentlessly attacking the paint and gaining the momentum advantage as Oso Ighodaro had his way inside and David Joplin and Ben Gold had their way on the outside. Marquette continues to learn and grow to play together amidst key injuries, and as the season rolls along, standout performances seem to be coming from everywhere.
Oso Ighodaro had perhaps the best game of his career, posting 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks. Oso continues to improve his already wide range of skills throughout the season and proved to be more than a handful for Shaheen Holloway’s Pirates. Junior guard Stevie Mitchell continued to step up in the absence of his injured backcourt mates, making getting to the rim offensively and exhibiting relentlessness on the defensive end, scoring 13 points to go along with 5 steals. Ben Gold also had one of his best games, hitting three shots from deep while grabbing 6 rebounds and netting 2 blocks. When asked about Ben Gold’s performance, Shaka Smart said, “You just love seeing the light come on for sophomores.”
Tyler Kolek’s name hasn't come up yet. It’s only partly because he was scoreless until around 2:30 left to go in the game. That’s not to say that he wasn’t involved; Kolek only attempted four shots up until that point. But the offense still runs through him, and his ability to create opportunities is still the most valuable part of his game. Kolek distributed 11 assists in 36 minutes on Saturday, in a game that didn't really need his scoring. The team played as a whole in one of their better efforts of the season.
Marquette, winners of four straight, improve to 15-5 overall and 6-3 in the Big East. Seton Hall drops its third straight and falls to 13-8 overall and 6-4 in conference. Next up for Marquette is a trip to West Philly for a road tilt with Villanova on Tuesday, Jan. 30th, at 7pm ET.