A packed and rocking Fiserv Forum filled with fans was able to witness their Golden Eagles take down Illinois in the opening matchup of the Gavitt Games. The game had spurts of positives and negatives but Marquette’s defensive effort is a big storyline in the win a top-ten Illinois team. Kofi Cockburn was a non-factor in this game due to his three-game suspension to start the season. Marquette was picked ninth in the Big East Preseason Poll, so how did they pick off a top-ten team at home? Here are a couple of reasons why.
Marquette’s Defense Rattled Illinois for 40 Minutes
In a similar fashion to Florida’s victory on Sunday against Florida State, Shaka Smart and the Golden Eagles used their defense as a key tactic in their game plan. Their full-court pressure forced 15 Illinois turnovers in the first half as the Golden Eagles took a 28-27 lead into the locker room.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well, so it was extra important for both teams to make plays to turn defense into offense. Marquette’s interior defense held strong, tallying 10 blocks in the game. Along with blocks, the Golden Eagles played tough and totaled nine steals as well, none more important than Tyler Kolek’s steal and lay-in on the other end with 18.2 to go in the game. That sequence put Marquette up 67-66 which ultimately was the final score of the game
This was a major win at the beginning of Shaka Smart’s tenure with the Golden Eagles.
Darryl Morsell is That Guy For Marquette
Maryland transfer Darryl Morsell is making a name for himself in his new home in Milwaukee. In all three of Marquette’s games this season, the senior has put up 20 or more points. One crazy thing about this is that Morsell didn’t hit the 20 point mark in any of his 126 games at Maryland. He is a true leader on both ends of the floor and it showed tonight.
In his first three games with Marquette, Darryl Morsell is averaging 23.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 3.5 APG. All while shooting 60% from the field and 50% from the three-point line.
Lackluster Offensive Performance by Andre Curbelo
With Kofi Cockburn not in the lineup for the first three games due to a suspension, Andre Curbello, Coleman Hawkins, and Trent Fraiser are some of the guys that will produce for Illinois offensively. The Illini were sped up by the defensive pressure of Marquette which is a big reason for Curbelo’s struggles.
The rising sophomore finished the night with 11 points on 4-18 shooting with seven turnovers. Curbelo did not hit a shot from beyond the three-point line either. Definitely, a night to forget for a kid who is expected to make a big jump this year.
With Marquette stunning #10 Illinois in the Fiserv Forum, the Big East opens up the Gavitt Games on a strong note. Providence beat Wisconsin in Madison last night as well, so the Big East goes 2-0 on opening night. The Gavitt Games go through Thursday evening with two games airing a night on FS1.
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