Marquette opens new home with 67-42 win over UMBC

MILWAUKEE — Marquette opened a new season in a new downtown home with a fresh approach to winning.

Defense came first in a 67-42 victory on Tuesday night over UMBC.

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Sam Hauser and Markus Howard each scored 15 points, and the Golden Eagles held the NCAA Tournament darling Retrievers to 22.6 percent shooting in their debut at the Fiserv Forum.

“The story of our game was our defense. We haven’t won a ton of games in the past on the defensive end,” coach Steve Wojciechowski said.

Theo John had 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks for Marquette, which weathered a poor-shooting night from Howard. The sharpshooting guard was just 2 of 12 from the 3-point line and 5 of 16 overall.

Howard added eight rebounds and seven assists. And the Golden Eagles have a deeper roster this year with the potential to get contributions from up and down the roster.

With that depth, playing anything close to the kind of defense played against UMBC should enable the Golden Eagles to return to the NCAA Tournament. Marquette was 326th out of 351 Division I schools last year in allowing opponents to shoot 47.8 percent.

“The strength of our team is our team. We have a group of guys who on any given night can be the sparkplug and catalyst for our team, playing at a higher level,” Wojciechowski said. “Tonight, that was Theo.”

Marquette held UMBC to just 14 of 62 from the field to spoil the Retrievers’ first game since last season’s NCAAs. UMBC was the first No. 16 seed to beat a top seed in the men’s tourney.

“I never want them to shy away from it … It was so special,” UMBC coach Ryan Odom said about the upset of Virginia in the NCAAs. “At the same time, there’s a season going on for us. This is a new team … our goal is go out and create new, exciting moments.”

Arkel Lamar had 11 points to lead UMBC, which trailed by as much as 21 in the second half. The Retrievers shot just 5 of 27 (18 percent) after halftime.

BIG PICTURE

UMBC: The Retrievers are no longer seen as a pushover on any schedule after their historic upset over Virginia. Figure that no deficit is out of reach after last season’s NCAA Tournament. They narrowed an early 14-point lead to 25-20 late in the first half before the Howard-fueled run put Marquette up by 13 at halftime. They had trouble keeping up with Howard’s quickness and the inside play of the 6-foot-9 John, especially in the first half.

Marquette: A deep roster allows Wojciechowski to mix and match on the court. The Golden Eagles are especially deeper in the frontcourt, where they’ve added 6-8 Joey Hauser (six points, seven rebounds) and 6-9 Brendan Bailey (five points, one rebound). They could be in good shape especially if John can continue to play like he did on Tuesday night, when he had seven points and six rebounds in the first half.

“I thought the big guys were a big factor for them,” Odom said.

RETURNING RETRIEVERS

Milwaukee-area native Joe Sherburne had eight points and four rebounds in returning home for UMBC. Sherburne and Lamar were starters on last year’s tourney team that beat Virginia. Otherwise, the Retrievers will be learning on the fly.

“We had two guys out there that have played a ton of minutes for us,” Odom said. “All the other guys were pretty much new. It showed tonight.”

DEAR JOHN

John wore a light brace to protect a right thumb that he sprained in a recent practice. It didn’t slow him down on the court.

“I’d have to say my mindset has improved drastically,” the sophomore said. “Just being aggressive and attacking the glass.”

UP NEXT

UMBC: Hosts Division III Shenandoah on Saturday.

Marquette: Hosts Bethune Cookman on Saturday.