After a sharpshooting season opener, No. 5 Marquette will return to the court to host Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference favorite Rider on Friday night in Milwaukee.
The Golden Eagles (1-0) shot 52.2 percent from the field and defeated visiting Northern Illinois 92-70 on Monday. Kam Jones led Marquette with 20 points on a 6-of-9 effort from the floor, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, as Marquette built a 50-28 halftime lead and maintained the edge the rest of the way.
Jones was a key starter on last season’s team that won the Big East championship and made the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“He scored 20 tonight without breaking much of a sweat on the offensive end,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “He had some very good defensive possessions, which is an area where we’ve really challenged him. He’s a heck of a player.”
Big East Preseason Player of the Year Tyler Kolek added 14 points and five rebounds, but it was Marquette’s bench that stood out the most. Sophomore Chase Ross provided a career-high 12 points, and the bench scored 32 total, with all six reserves who saw action getting on the scoresheet.
“That’s a big reason to how we’re going to win games this year,” said Ben Gold, who had nine points. “Whether we get in foul trouble or whoever it is, we have people to just come in and make an impact straight away. There’s no fall-off.”
The Golden Eagles will face a challenging non-conference slate that includes road games against Illinois and Wisconsin, a Maui Invitational bracket that begins with UCLA, and a home game with Texas in the Big 12-Big East Battle.
Before any of that, Marquette will get no small test from Rider (1-0), a New Jersey program picked No. 1 in the MAAC coaches’ preseason poll.
Broncs forward Mervin James was voted the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year. He put up a team-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting Monday as Rider cruised in its season opener, 113-67 over Division III opponent Immaculata.
James was one of six players to score in double figures for Rider. The Broncs led 61-38 by halftime, but coach Kevin Baggett still wanted to see a better defensive effort.
“Defense, to hell with the offense,” Baggett told The Trentonian. “We gave up way too many points in the first half; that’s gotta be our focus. We gave up way too many points for the game.”
James is taking his role as a team leader seriously.
“I’m big on telling my team: ‘If y’all see me doing something that I’m not supposed to be doing, y’all have the right to tell me,'” James said in the preseason. “I don’t want nobody to feel like I’m bigger than nobody. Yeah, ’cause that’s not how this works. Everybody has to be on the same page and everybody has to have the same agenda for us to go at the end to where we want to be at, and that’s the MAAC championship.”
Rider opened the 2022-23 season at another Big East team, Providence, and took the Friars down to the wire in a 66-65 defeat.
This will be Marquette’s first game against Rider all-time.
–Field Level Media