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NCAAB: Shaka Smart debuts as Marquette coach vs. SIU Edwardsville

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The Shaka Smart era at Marquette will begin Tuesday when the Golden Eagles host SIU Edwardsville in the regular-season opener for both teams.

Smart was the head coach at Texas the past six seasons, compiling a 109-86 record and guiding the Longhorns to three NCAA Tournament berths. He left Austin following a first-round NCAA defeat to 14th-seeded Abilene Christian, moving immediately to take over the Marquette program, which had fired Steve Wojciechowski a week earlier.

Before his Texas stint, Smart was VCU’s coach for six years, leading the Rams to five NCAA Tournament bids and a shocking berth in the 2011 Final Four.

At Marquette, Smart inherits a team coming off a 13-14 season, just the program’s second losing campaign this century.

Marquette returns only two players who tallied starts last season — Greg Elliott (five starts, 6.2 points per game overall) and Justin Lewis (one start, 7.8 ppg overall). However, the Golden Eagles will be without Elliott for the matchup with the Cougars, as he is serving a four-game, school-issued suspension for an undisclosed policy violation.

The Golden Eagles are coming off a 98-40 exhibition win against Division II Bowie State on Thursday night. Marquette’s Tyler Kolek led all scorers with 15 points, going 5-for-8 from 3-point range. Oklahoma transfer Kur Kuath recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Golden Eagles.

“This is just the first step for us,” Smart said. “Obviously the competition ramps up from here, but I thought our guys did a really good job of trying to execute our game plan offensively and defensively. We were a little streaky shooting the ball, but I thought we got good shots for the most part.”

SIU Edwardsville also played an exhibition game Thursday, falling 62-61 to Division II Quincy University. Ray’Sean Taylor led the Cougars with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Carlos Curtis added 10 points off the bench, and Shamar Wright had eight points and seven rebounds.

“There was a reason I scheduled this game,” SIU Edwardsville coach Brian Barone said. “I wanted our team to play against a team that was going to play with passion and play with execution, and they lived up to it.”

The Cougars were active defensively, compiling 12 steals and forcing Quincy to shoot 26.7 percent (8-for-30) from behind the 3-point arc. Switching up the defensive scheme from years past has been a point of emphasis for Barone, whose team went 9-17 last season.

“If you’re guarding for 15 to 23 seconds, you have to really lock in and focus that last 15 to seven seconds, whatever the case may be, and not break down on that second or third reversal,” Barone said. “And that’s where we had some good moments that led to steals.”

In the only previous matchup between Marquette and SIU Edwardsville, the Golden Eagles won 89-56 on Dec. 21, 2016.

–Field Level Media

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