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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Marquette defeats 15-seed Vermont for its first NCAA Tournament win since 2013

Sophomore guard Kam Jones led Marquette with 19 points in its win in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 17 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It had nearly been a decade since the Marquette men’s basketball team had won an NCAA Tournament game. 

But that all changed Friday afternoon inside Nationwide Arena. 

Behind a strong second half performance from sophomore guard Kam Jones, the 2-seeded Golden Eagles (29-6, 17-3 Big East) took down 15-seeded Vermont Catamounts (23-11, 14-2) 78-61 in the first round of March Madness. 

“(I) want to give a lot of credit to Vermont for the way that they fought and battled today,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “Our commitment to defense on both ends, I thought, was very solid. It wasn’t the best we’ve had all year but I thought it was really solid and it gave us a chance to turn defense into offense.” 

Friday’s win also marks Smart’s first NCAA win at the helm of the Golden Eagles. 

Jones ignites offense

Entering the second half with a nine point advantage, Marquette saw its lead dwindle down as Vermont opened on a 10-7 run over the first five minutes.

But then Jones took control of Marquette’s offense.

Jones, who finished with one point in the first half, hit back-to-back shots from the field to forcing Vermont to call a timeout as Marquette led 58-44.

The Memphis, Tennessee native scored Marquette’s next 13 points expanding the lead to 63-46.

“Think it was Chase that threw a pass to Oso and got me an easy 3. I feel like that got me going a little bit,” Jones said. “And Coach, previously in the huddle, 30 seconds before, he told me to be myself and I’m not letting anybody down,” Jones said. “Just play my game. Go out there and just have fun, playing.” 

Marquette did not back after that, scoring a total of 39 points in the second half and shooting 53.8% in the second half to seal the win. 

MORE =>How Shaka Smart’s importance on relationships has led Marquette to its best season in over a decade

Statistical Leaders:

Jones led Marquette netting 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting.

Junior forward Oso Ighodaro added 14 points and grabbed five rebounds. Three other Golden Eagles finished in double figures in scoring. 

“What allowed us to break the game open was when you put the ball in Kam Jones’ hands, he’s a uniquely gifted scorer,” Smart said. “He’s got a couple more steps to take as a player, and with his competitive maturity, to be able to do that all the time.

Graduate student forward Matt Veretto led Vermont with 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Senior guards Dylan Penn and Robin Duncan each added in 11 points a piece.

Offense imposing its will

After both teams exchanged baskets to open up the first half, Marquette went on a 6-0 run with contributions from Joplin, Chase Ross and Olivier-Maxence Prosper to make the score 11-5. 

Marquette got out to its largest lead in the half at the 3:42 mark when Joplin hit a 3-pointer off a pass from Kolek, making the score 36-25.  

The Catamounts fought back to get within six, but the Golden Eagles were able to maintain a nine-point lead heading into the locker room. 

“The first half, it was a typical first half of an NCAA Tournament game where both teams were working their way through just some jitters,” Smart said. “But our guys did a good job hanging in there and adjusting to take away the things that Vermont was doing.” 

Marquette shot 50% from the field and 45.5% from beyond the arc in the half. 

Rebounds galore 

Marquette, who has struggled at times this season with its rebounding, made a presence on the glass Friday. 

In the final few possessions of the first half, Ighodaro and sophomore guard Stevie Mitchell fought their way through the Vermont defense to get offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive for Marquette. 

Mitchell tied a season-high of seven rebounds on the afternoon.

Just being myself, playing my role for this team, just playing hard and giving effort,” Mitchell said on his mindset on the defensive in Friday’s win. “I just tried to make as many effort plays as possible because I feel like that can be a little domino. If we have a bunch of dominos, that’s how we be the special team we are.” 

The Golden Eagles grabbed five offensive rebounds and out-rebounded the Catamounts 17-13 in the half alone. 

Next up:

Marquette moves onto the second round and will face 7-seeded Michigan State Sunday at Nationwide Arena. 

“Watch them today a little bit before our game, they have an older, tough, veteran team,” Smart said. “But at the same time, our focus is on being the best Marquette (team) we can be. There’s a lot of things we can take from today to try to carry over. There’s other things we can look at from today and try to do better.”

This article was written by Kaylynn Wright. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @KaylynnWrightMU. 

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About the Contributor
Kaylynn Wright
Kaylynn Wright, Assistant Sports Editor
Kaylynn Wright is a sophomore from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin studying journalism, and she is an Assistant Sports Editor for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire, she enjoys reading and watching baseball, specifically the San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox. She is excited to meet new people and continue to create high-quality sports content for the Wire.

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