The Marquette Golden Eagles took down Northern Illinois in a rather controlling fashion Saturday night at the Fiserv Forum to move to 6-1 on the season.
Marquette played their first game in six days after playing 4 games in six days last week, and it was evident that Marquette had some rust to shake off. Slow starts have somewhat become the norm so far for Shaka Smart’s squad, and this one was no different.
A pair of early turnovers and sloppy offense from Marquette led to NIU taking a 7-4 lead into the under 16 timeout. Then Marquette started really digging into their bench. Shaka Smart substituted early and often in this game, trying a multitude of different lineups. Northern Illinois claimed a 10-9 advantage off a Trendon Hankerson three pointer with 14:17 to go in the first half, but that was the last lead they would hold.
Marquette settled in thanks to some tenacious defense and scoring of the bench from Stevie Mitchell. Mitchell finished the contest with 11 points to go along with his four rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Contributions like that off the bench are what is going to need to happen for the Golden Eagles this season, especially on nights like this where the starting five struggles to get into a rhythm early.
The other scoring contributions Saturday night for Marquette came from Justin Lewis, who pitched in 15 points on a very efficient 6-7 (86%) from the field. He’s really blossomed into a go-to scorer at times for Shaka Smart, a leap that Lewis really needed to take for this team to have success. Tyler Kolek and Darryl Morsell added 10 points each, but on far less efficient splits. The Marquette backcourt duo shot a combined 2-8 from three point range.
The golden number of 32 in the deflections department was well surpassed in this contest for the Golden Eagles. But, for as much havoc as Marquette caused for Northern Illinois’ offense, they coughed the ball up even more. MU was able to overcome their ball security woes against a lesser opponent in Northern Illinois, but come Big East play they will not be able to get away with that kind of sloppiness.
Marquette hosts a struggling Jackson State team on Tuesday night at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. This game should serve as a final tune up for the Golden Eagles before their schedule really starts to heat up. Marquette has to fine-tune a few areas on both sides of the ball as they look to power through the rest of their loaded non-conference slate that still includes matchups with Wisconsin and UCLA.