After falling to Xavier in its BIG EAST opener Saturday, Marquette men’s basketball suffered another setback Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum falling to the UConn Huskies by a score of 78-70.
Prior to the game, the team announced that graduate student guard Darryl Morsell would miss the game after entering health and safety protocols.
“We knew we were going to be missing Daryl but our guys did a nice job trying to step up for him,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “This is unfortunately going to be part of this season around the country in college basketball.”
Redshirt first-year forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper started in replace of Morsell. He finished the night with a season-high 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
“He did a great job getting to the paint,” Smart said. “He had some really really nice finishes and defensively for the most part I thought he did a nice job.”
For the second straight game, the Golden Eagles started out shooting collectively strong going 8-for-11 from the field. Redshirt first-year guard Tyler Kolek recorded five assists in the first 10 minutes, helping Marquette get out to an early 18-13 lead.
“It was really good movement and pace,” Smart said. “Tyler is at his best when he’s attacking with good pace.”
The Huskies would respond and eventually take over the lead for the remainder of the half.
“I thought (in) the first half both teams played well offensively and we didn’t play nearly well enough defensively in the first half,” Smart said. “They (UConn) deserve credit for some of the shots that they made.”
Marquette entered halftime down six, after Martin hits a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give UConn a 43-37 lead.
After starting the half shooting 8-for-11, Marquette finished the half 6-for-15 from the field.
With 80 combined points in the first half, Smart said the message at halftime to his team focused on the defensive side of the ball.
“Most of the message at halftime was about defense because it was a high scoring first half,” Smart said. ”
For the second straight game, the Golden Eagles struggled to begin the second half. Meanwhile, the Huskies used a quick 7-0 run to build up to its biggest lead of the night at 58-47.
Marquette would then get back-to-back baskets from redshirt junior guard Greg Elliott and first-year forward David Joplin to bring the deficit within eight heading into the under-12 media timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, he Golden Eagles continued their fight to creep back in the contest. Marquette gotten within one after Prosper hit a 3-pointer.
Both teams would struggle from the field over the next few minutes before the Huskies retook control.
As was the case on Saturday, Marquette struggled to score down the stretch shutting down their second-half comeback.
Marquette’s struggles offensively allowed UConn to use a 12-5 run over the last four minutes to earn its first BIG EAST win of the season.
“For our team a lot of it is guys learning that the only way is to be in a huddle or be in a timeout or be in a free-throw situation and look your teammates in the eyes and believe in each other,” Smart said. “And really, really feel like, hey, we can do this and we can do it together.
“Again, that’s easier when you’ve played together for a little while. And we’re at a bit of a disadvantage with that compared to most teams but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”
Despite his team not being able to get over the hump, Smart said he was pleased with the fight he saw out of them in the final 20 minutes.
“I’m proud of the fact that our guys have gotten better to the point where we’re competing with these types of teams,” Smart said. “At the same time, there’s no real moral victories at this level of basketball. … And we want to find ways to be a couple possessions better in a game like this. We will be. I can promise you that. It’s just a matter of when.”
Redshirt first-year forward Justin Lewis led the way for Marquette on the night, finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds.
“The guy (Lewis) has improved a lot (since last season) and he’s one of the best players in the league,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “He’s hard to guard because Isaiah (Whaley) is a heck of a defender and we can usually leave Isaiah one on one with most guys and Isaiah had a tough time with him today.”
In his second game back from a wrist injury, Martin led the way for UConn with 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field. The senior guard also collected seven rebounds and went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line.
The Golden Eagles (8-5, 0-2 BIG EAST) will get an eight day break before their next game which is on the road against St. John’s (8-3, 1-0 BIG EAST) on Dec. 29th at 7 p.m. in Queens, N.Y.
This article was written by Ben Schultz. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @benschultz52.
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