Marquette collected its first road win of the Shaka Smart era with a gutsy victory over the Kansas State Wildcats Wednesday evening. A bounce back game was needed after the Golden Eagles looked overmatched for much of their contest against Wisconsin on December 4th, ultimately dropping that game 89-76. A bounce back was exactly what they got with a rollercoaster of a game ending with MU on top, 64-63.
A made three pointer by Kam Jones with 33 seconds left proved to be the difference in this one, but Marquette likely wouldn’t have been in a spot to close out that game without the stat-stuffing performance from Justin Lewis. Lewis finished with 14/9/5 on 43% shooting, but 10 of those points came in the opening period, including a three pointer right before the first half buzzer to send Marquette into the locker room with a 31-30 lead. Justin Lewis also tacked on three steals and two blocks as well. Kam Jones ended up leading the Golden Eagles in the scoring department with 15 points thanks to some hot outside shooting. Mark Smith led Kansas State in scoring with 17 points on 6-13 shooting from the field.
Marquette came into this game struggling mightily from outside the arc, and tonight wasn’t much different. The recent shooting woes of Tyler Kolek and Darryl Morsell continued as they combined to shoot just 3-20 (15%), including 2-16 from three point land. For as poorly as Marquette shot from long range, Kansas State was even worse. The Wildcats hoisted up 25 three pointers and connected on just six of them for a percentage of 24%. Marquette’s team three point numbers may have been less-than-stellar, but Kam Jones was outstanding from deep, shooting 4-8 from beyond the arc. Jones has cemented himself as an offensive weapon for Shaka Smart’s squad and his role will likely only increase as we progress towards conference play. One area where there is room for improvement for the freshman Kam Jones is at the charity stripe. Jones shot 1-3 on free throws, including a miss on a front end of a one-and-one that gave Kansas State a chance to win it while down one with 13 seconds remaining.
The two teams traded three pointers in the last minute, which as was previously mentioned, led to Kansas State getting one last chance to get a bucket for the win. But, after all of the back-and-forth madness that this matchup contained, Oso Ighodaro spoiled the Wildcats last chance with a rejection under the hoop. The redshirt freshman Ighodaro seems to be acclimating to Shaka’s system well, along with just adjusting to college basketball after playing a very small role last season for Marquette. His late block was one of seven that the Golden Eagles tallied Wednesday night, and it was certainly the most important one, as it secured the first true road win in two tries for Marquette this season.
The Golden Eagles have a tall task in a date with #4 UCLA waiting for them Saturday, December 11th at the Fiserv Forum. Smart’s team has been able to gather some impressive résumé-building wins early, and an upset of the Bruins Saturday would do wonders for Marquette come March.