Marquette fights through uneven performance for victory over Chicago State. Up next is Baylor and Wisconsin.

The Marquette men’s basketball team struggled for several stretches during its 82-68 victory over Chicago State on Saturday at Fiserv Forum.

It could have been because the Golden Eagles (5-2) had already played two games earlier this week at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Florida. It could have been because of the listless feeling in the arena with MU students still away on Thanksgiving break.

Box score:Marquette 82, Chicago State 68

Either way, MU will need to be sharper next week than it was against the Cougars (2-6). That's because probably the toughest week on the schedule is on deck, with top-10 foe Baylor on Tuesday and then state rival Wisconsin next Saturday.

"I think at one point we had 10 or 11 straight stops," MU head coach Shaka Smart said. "So we had some stretches where we were really locked in. We were in a stance. Talking. Playing with great aggressiveness.

"And then others that were simply not good enough. Why is that? It's probably a lot of things that go into it. We talked as a team about having a standard for us that didn't depend on the opponent. And I don't think we did a good enough job of that. We still have some growing up to do.

"With that, these guys are human beings. We did have a busy last several days. But, you know what, the best teams find a way to be at their best consistently throughout the game. And we're still working toward that."

Marquette's defense struggles early in first half

MU’s defense was sleepwalking at times in the first half, with Smart frequently substituting to find a combination that would provide a spark.

The Cougars started 6 for 10 from the floor, including 3 of 4 on three-pointers and took a 26-19 lead.

"First off, we didn't start the game we wanted to start defensively," MU's Olivier-Maxence Prosper said. "Our energy was low. Our activity that we usually have wasn't there.

Marquette Golden Eagles guard Stevie Mitchell (4) and Chicago State Cougars guard Brent Davis (12) fight for a loose ball in the second half Saturday, November 26, 2022, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Marquette won, 82-68.
Marquette Golden Eagles guard Stevie Mitchell (4) and Chicago State Cougars guard Brent Davis (12) fight for a loose ball in the second half Saturday, November 26, 2022, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Marquette won, 82-68.

MU's Tyler Kolek found Ben Gold for a fastbreak layup and then, after a timeout, a steal by Kam Jones lead to a dunk from Prosper. A three-pointer by Kolek gave MU back the lead for good at 26-25.

The Golden Eagles' defense found its intensity after halftime.

The Cougars didn’t score in the second half until Wesley Cardet hit two free throws at the 14:15 mark to cut MU’s lead to 50-35. Chicago State’s first field goal after halftime came with 12:28 remaining.

"I feel like we didn't start playing at our standard, then later in the game we really got down, like, 'Yo, really got to guard,' " Prosper said. "Because they were really scoring the ball. Then we re-focused and got our energy up.

"Then coming out of the second half, we were like, nah, they can't score on us any more. We had a couple kills (three consecutive defensive stops) early in the second half and then we were able to guard the ball. But we definitely have to start better."

The intensity waned again late in the game, with Chicago State cutting the lead down to 77-67 with just over one minute left.

Oliver-Maxence Prosper has first double-double for Marquette

One of the reasons MU was energized in the second half was Prosper, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He had four offensive boards.

"We talk about EGBs," said Prosper, referring to Smart's priority of 'energy generating behaviors.' "That's an EGB, offensive rebound. You got to go in there and I felt like I could get in there whenever I wanted.

"I had a couple and that energy sparked us on both ends. I feel like that was a factor in us getting the energy going."

It was Prosper's first collegiate double-double.

"The way that he flew around," Smart said. "The way that he rebounded. Drove the ball aggressively. Got to the paint. Got to the foul line. That's the O-Max that we know can be highly effective and he's a guy that can do a lot of different things."

Kam Jones added 15 points for MU on 5-for-10 shooting, frequently attacking the basket instead of settling for jumpers.

"He's such a good player," Smart said. "I got to help him ... play with just absolute clarity. Wait until you see him when he's really, really humming."

Zach Wrightsil misses third straight game with knee injury

MU graduate transfer Zach Wrightsil, last season's NAIA player of the year at Loyola (New Orleans), sat out his third straight game and fourth overall with knee issues.

It is the same knee Wrightsil had surgery on in June, causing him to miss most of the summer practices.

"He's got soreness in his knee," Smart said. "He's got some consultation coming up with our medical people. Our trainers have been working really hard with him and he's been working hard.

"But just didn't feel that down in Ft. Myers or tonight he was really going to be in a position to go into a game comfortably. We continue to try to help him and, at the end of the day, you want to err on the side of putting a guy in position for him to be the most successful."

The 6-foot-7 Wrightsil is expected to provide hustle plays for an undersized MU frontcourt. Starting center Oso Ighodaro had 13 points and five rebounds before fouling out late in the game.

"We need O-Max and Oso to have big rebounding numbers for our team," Smart said. "And then we need Jop (sophomore David Joplin) to rebound at a higher rate than he did tonight.

"With the team and the guys we have, we need our guards to contribute. We need everyone to work together on that."

The Golden Eagles will need contributions from up and down the roster with a challenging schedule in the coming weeks, including a road game at Notre Dame on Dec. 11 and the Big East opener against league favorite Creighton on Dec. 16 at Fiserv Forum.

"You have to understand that certainly the margin for error goes down in those type of games," Smart said. "But at the same time, you have to play with an approach-goal mindset.

"Which is going after winning and the things that go into winning. As opposed to trying to avoid mistakes. Because that doesn't work."

More:Olivier-Maxence Prosper showed his all-around talent against LIU. Marquette will need more of that.

Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal.

DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and more

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Marquette beats Chicago State at Fiserv Forum: 82-68