MILWAUKEE—Although the students aren’t back yet from break, there was no Thanksgiving hangover for the Marquette Golden Eagles on Sunday. The reigning Legends Classic champions have returned home from Brooklyn showing no ill effects from the holiday, and emphatically beat the Jackson State Tigers by a score of 80-61 on Sunday afternoon at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
They got off to a slow start, but the Golden Eagles were largely in control for the entirety of the game. From the off, freshman phenom Henry Ellenson in particular looked ready to dominate the contest. He may not have picked up his first points until the 9:54 mark, but his court vision and ability down low were on display all game long. In the game’s first five minutes, he’d already pulled down three rebounds and picked up two assists.
It was not just Ellenson putting in a strong all-around performance. The early scoring was evenly distributed, and when the Golden Eagles came to life after the second media timeout to stretch their lead to 28-17 it felt like they’d already put the game out of reach.
The Golden Eagles continued to keep Jackson State at arm’s length over the remainder of the first half, but the lead they had built shrank. Marquette’s first half lead peaked at 13 points, but a sequence of sloppy possessions at both ends of the floor saw the advantage diminished to the point that it was just a three possession game. However, Duane Wilson managed to send Marquette off to locker room with a comfortable 38-28 lead after he stole the ball, missed a layup, stole the ball back and made a layup at the buzzer.
After the break, the Golden Eagles came out soaring, with Haanif Cheatham in particular looking terrific. The freshman scored eight of Marquette’s first 13 points during a 13-4 run, showcasing both his ability to knock down shots from distance and to beat players off the dribble.
“It was really good [to get off to that start],” said Cheatham when asked by VAVEL about the impact of the run after the game. “At the end of the first half we got a little sloppy on the defensive end, at halftime that’s what our main focus was, locking up on the defensive end, rebounding and making sure we finish possessions.”
From that point on, the game was fairly comfortable for the Golden Eagles. They kept the pressure on and built up a 26 point lead. However, with 10 minutes left in the game Marquette got a bit careless. After taking out star center Luke Fischer, who finished the game with 11 points, six rebounds and six blocks, freshman Matt Heldt subbed in. Although Heldt quickly scored his first collegiate points, the quality of play from Marquette suffered greatly. As such, Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski quickly sent Fischer back onto the floor.
Following the game, the coach was quick to stress that although things have looked much better recently from the Golden Eagles, this team is not yet where he wants them to be.
Following the game, VAVEL asked coach Wojciechowski about what can be done to keep improving. “We can continue to work, we can continue to look in the mirror. Just because you’re winning doesn’t mean that everything’s right, and just because you lose doesn’t mean everything’s wrong. We need to do that after every performance, whether it’s a practice or a game. Look in the mirror and say ‘this is what we did well, this is what we didn’t do well.’ Then we work on those things. I don't know any other way,” said Wojciechowski.
It has been quite a turnaround over the last seven days for the Marquette Golden Eagles. A week ago they were reeling after losing to the Iowa Hawkeyes at home by 28 points. Now, they are Legends Classic champions and have won three games on the bounce.
With the victory, Marquette improves to 4-2 on the season and will prepare to take on Grambling State on Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Meanwhile, Jackson State drops to 2-5 and will have to try and regroup before hosting Fisk on Wednesday night.