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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

No. 4 Marquette defeats No. 23 Illinois behind Kolek’s strong performance

Senior guard Tyler Kolek finished with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists in No. 4 Marquette men’s basketball’s 71-64 win over No. 23 Illinois. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — No. 4 Marquette men’s basketball handled its first road test of the season against No. 23 Illinois with a familiar ingredient: a strong offensive performance from senior guard Tyler Kolek.

Behind the Cumberland, Rhode Island native’s game-high 24 points, the Golden Eagles (3-0) took down the Fighting Illini (2-1) 71-64 Tuesday night at the State Farm Center. 

“That was a heck of game for November 14th,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s about as physical of a basketball game (in the) second week of the season that I’ve been apart of… Our guys did a good job of standing up to Illinois the best we could… To hold them to 35% from the field is quite a feat.”

Marquette has now won seven straight games over ranked opponents.  

Defense leads to win 

The Illini came into the second half with their foot on the gas, going on a quick 6-2 run to take their first lead of the game since the 15:31 mark of the opening period.

But as both teams traded baskets and the clock wound down, it was Marquette’s defense that pushed it over the finish line.  

While their offense went on an 8-0 run with contributions from four different players, the Golden Eagles’ defense held the Illini scoreless for just over five minutes, grabbing a six-point lead with 7:57 left to play in the half.

In the final 3:12 of the game, Illinois’ only points came from free throws as Marquette closed out the seven-point win. 

“It just shows how bad we want to win,” junior guard Kam Jones said. “I know it’s not easy to come in and do that against a Top 25 team with a good crowd behind them. They want to win too, so that showed our experience with each other and our will to win.”

Kolek’s key contributions

There was a lot of questions surrounding Kolek’s availability this game — but none from himself.

“Maybe there were doubts in other peoples’ minds, but not my mind,” Kolek said.

And when Illinois started off hot — going on a 5-0 run to begin the game — Kolek rose to the occasion.  

Although senior forward Oso Ighodaro started the 9-0 run completing a three-point play, it was Kolek who finished it, scoring three consecutive baskets to put the Golden Eagles ahead 13-7 with 14:16 left to play in the first half. 

Later, Illinois tied the game 17-17, but right out of the media timeout, Kolek pressed on, scoring another layup to regain his team’s lead. 

“He did a nice job getting downhill,” Smart said. “He jumps about the size of a phonebook, but he was able to get angles and finish. He’s as big of a reason as anything as why we kept getting in the paint.”

The two teams went back and forth offensively for the rest of the half, but it was Marquette who held a five-point lead heading into the locker room. After the first 20 minutes, Kolek led his team with 14 points, four rebounds and three assists.

“He’s too much of a competitor to not play in a game like this,” Jones said. “It was in the outsiders’ minds, but there was never a doubt in my mind. We love him.”

Statistical leaders

Along with his 24 points, Kolek finished with six rebounds and a team-high four assists in 38 minutes of action. Jones and Ighodaro also earned 15 and 13 points respectively. Sophomore forward Ben Gold earned a career-high seven rebounds. 

For Illinois, fifth-year guard Terrence Shannon Jr. recorded 21 points while going a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Graduate student guard Marcus Domask also finished with 18 points, going 3-for-7 from beyond the arc. 

Up next

Marquette will travel to Honolulu, Hawaii to take on UCLA Monday night at the Allstate Maui Invitational. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. CST. 

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