Back in a U.P. groove: Marquette Redmen boys basketball team shoots 55 percent in downing Escanaba 76-53

Marquette’s Marius Grazulis, left, goes up strong in the lane as Escanaba’s Craig Kamin defends. Grazulis scored 19 points in a 76-53 Redmen win at the Eskymos’ gym on Tuesday. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Mike Mattson)

ESCANABA — Just call it a night the Escanaba pep band may have played better than the Eskymos.

Marquette, shaking off a 1-3 start to its season, put it all together Tuesday night and routed the host Eskymos 76-53 in a Great Northern Conference boys’ basketball game.

The Redmen (2-3, 1-0 GNC) were as hot as the Esky pep band — which cranked out an array of festive tunes, but still couldn’t get the Eskymos jump started.

Marquette shot 55 percent from the field, relied on its inside muscle and solved Esky’s 1-3-1 defense en route to an impressive win entering Friday’s showdown at Negaunee.

In its four games downstate, Marquette beat Traverse City Central and lost a pair of contests to Traverse City West and another to Petoskey.

“We kind of had a chip on our shoulders the last four games,” Marquette coach Brad Nelson said. “Of the 160 minutes we played downstate, it comes down to a couple of minutes and that is the difference between 3-1 and 1-3 (records). So we wanted from the get-go, it was going to be 32 minutes of hard work.

“Our guys’ energy was there the whole night. We lost (Escanaba’s Ryan) Robinette a few times, but I thought overall, the distribution and scoring is what we’re going to need and hopefully that continues. We did a good job of spreading the ball around, but I’m really happy with our defensive effort.”

Marquette excelled with its inside duo — 6-foot-10 junior center Marius Grazulis, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds; and 6-3 senior forward Treylon McFerrin, who contributed 21 points, six assists, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Junior guard Ethan Martysz also drilled four 3-pointers en route to 12 points and 13 rebounds, while sophomore guard Luke Ogea added nine points for the Redmen, who had a 33-27 rebounding edge and only nine turnovers.

Esky (4-1, 2-1) countered with Robinette, who finished with a game-high 24 points, as the lone Eskymo in double figures. Jared Nash produced eight points and 11 rebounds while Craig Kamin supplied eight points after fighting off early foul trouble.

Marquette opened the game with a 13-1 run and led 20-12 after one quarter.

Esky pulled within 28-22 on a basket from Robinette, but the Redmen promptly went on a 7-0 run and a 16-6 advantage to gain a 44-26 halftime lead.

The Redmen relied on some transition fast breaks and good ball movement to break down Esky’s 1-3-1 trapping halfcourt defense.

“We didn’t turn them over,” Esky coach Tracy Hudson said. “I thought defensively, we’ve been a pretty good defensive team the first four games.

“I felt we didn’t do a good job defensively tonight and we didn’t do a good job on the boards. I thought every time we made a mistake defensively they hit a 3 or they got a rebound and a putback.

“We made mistakes in transition and I thought that was the difference.

“The message to my kids is I’m happy to be 4-1, but we got outplayed tonight. They outsmarted us. Every time we made a mistake Marquette made us pay with a 3 or a putback.”

Nelson said the Redmen didn’t shoot well from behind the arc downstate, but hit 6 of 18 Tuesday to complement their inside game against Esky’s 1-3-1 defense.

“We were finally confident and stepping into our shots,” Nelson said. “Just having that confidence helps the cause immensely.

“You have to get that defense to move or you’ll never get inside of it. But it also helps to have Marius to be the avenue to get it to the backside.

“We got a lot of wide-open layups, we got a lot of wide-open 3s, which was kind of the game plan going in and we executed it.”

Marquette, which outscored Esky 32-27 in the second half, also relied on an aggressive man-to-man defense from start to finish.

Hudson said Esky will have to play better defense in the paint next time against Marquette to offset Grazulis and McFerrin.

Escanaba won the preliminary games, topping the Marquette JVs 66-54 and Redmen freshmen 47-36.