Marquette 75, New Hampshire 70: Darryl Morsell leads the way in the second half

Ben Steele
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Darryl Morsell is more than just a defender.

The graduate transfer finished with a collegiate-high 26 points and hit crucial baskets in the second half to lead Marquette to a 75-70 victory over pesky New Hampshire on Friday at Fiserv Forum.

Morsell spent four seasons at Maryland, where he was Big Ten defensive player of the year as a senior. But with the Golden Eagles (2-0), he has embraced the role of go-to scorer. It's one of the reasons the 6-foot-5 guard landed at MU.

"I think for him that was a huge part of it," MU head coach Shaka Smart said. "He felt like it was a match in terms of the way that we play.

"And Tyler (Kolek) got banged up out there. Normally we have the ball in his hands a ton. We had to have offense come from other people and ball-handling come from other people. And I thought Darryl really stepped forward."

BOX SCORE: Marquette 75, UNH 70

Morsell had 21 points in the season opener. The most he scored in a game at Maryland was 19 at Illinois last season.

Every time the Wildcats (1-1) threatened, Morsell seemed to have the answer.

New Hampshire kept hanging around thanks to nine offensive rebounds in the first half and MU shooting 3 for 16 on three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes.

Morsell hit a long jumper and then a three-pointer in the waning seconds to give MU a 34-29 lead at the break. 

But Morsell saved his biggest moments for when New Hampshire took the lead late in the second half. He went on a personal 7-0 run to give the Golden Eagles a 66-62 advantage. He then stole the inbound pass and dropped a nice pass to a streaking Justin Lewis, who was fouled. He hit one of two free throws.

After the Wildcats' Jayden Martinez (21 points) hit a three-pointer to cut MU's lead to 67-65 with 2:48 left, Morsell put his head down and drove to the rim to draw a foul. He sank both free throws.

"Darryl's just a leader," MU big man Oso Ighodaro said. "He'll do anything on the floor that he needs to to help us win. Tonight we needed him to score. And that's exactly what he did. He just does everything on the floor for us and he's a consistent leader each and every day."

Ighodaro finished a collegiate-high 12 rebounds. He helped keep the Wildcats off the offensive glass in the second half.

"We were getting a lot of stops in the first half but then giving up offensive rebounds," Ighodaro said. "We were just trying to make sure we box out and finish possessions when we play solid defense."

Morsell got some help closing the game from Lewis, a fellow Baltimore native. 

Marquette forward Justin Lewis drives to the basket during the first half.

After New Hampshire got close again, Lewis drove into the lane for a short jumper to make it 71-67. In the final 21 seconds, the 6-7 Lewis sank four free throws and made a key defensive stop.

Lewis finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double to start the season.

"He's 19 years old," Smart said. "And he's just made incredible growth since he got here at Marquette. I've only known him since early April. But I think last year for him was such a learning experience. He went through twists and turns, highs and lows. He went through a tough injury. 

"But I think coming into this year probably the most impressive thing he's done is he's connected his growth as a person with his growth as a player. He's connected getting double-doubles with his ability to respond. With his ability to play with poise and help his teammates and be 'lost in the fight' as we say. So that's something I'm really proud of. The good thing is he has much more room for growth."

With Kolek in and out of the game after hurting his leg on a collision in the first half, freshman guards Stevie Mitchell and Kam Jones were pressed into crucial minutes. Another freshman guard, Emarion Ellis, saw almost six minutes of action after not playing in MU's first game. 

Jones and Mitchell helped spark a 9-0 run early in the second half.

"Those guys are going to be good," Smart said. "They're all kind of in different places in their development. I'm so excited about where they will be in six months, 12 months, 18 months. If we can keep getting better.

"But at the same time, it's Nov. 12. We're here and we got another game in another couple days. So it's about trying to help them be the best they can be in this moment."