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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

No. 7 Marquette narrowly beats St. Thomas 84-79 in non-conference finale

Sophomore guard Sean Jones, on his birthday, earns his second-career dunk as junior forward David Joplin celebrates behind him. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

No. 7 Marquette men’s basketball was never comfortable.

The Golden Eagles’ largest lead of their non-conference finale against St. Thomas was only 13 points and the Tommies (6-5) always looked in striking distance.

But Marquette (9-2) did just enough down the stretch to etch out an 84-79 win Thursday night at Fiserv Forum.

“That sure was an exciting game. Really grateful for the way our guys came together down the stretch,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “A combination of factors kind of created a little bit of tension within our team, but our guys did a really good job coming together, focusing on the play at hand — there’s certainly a lot of plays, where we need to be better.

“I told the guys in the locker room, and maybe this is the difference when you’re a player or coach, but we’re not entitled to beating anyone. We have to earn any win, any stop, any score, and down the stretch our guys did a good job of doing that.”

But flashback to just under four minutes left to play, and the Golden Eagles had a six-point lead.

Senior forward Oso Ighodaro was then issued a flagrant 1 and graduate student forward Parker Bjorklund hit both free throws followed by a 3-pointer. Just like that, a one-point Marquette lead and the St. Thomas horde of fans was the loudest part of Fiserv.

“Every time they scored, their people made a lot of noise,” Smart said.

Bjorklund was not done yet though, as soon after he would again make it a one-point game with a layup, 75-74 Golden Eagles. In three minutes, the Tommies almost entirely erased their 12-point deficit.

Sophomore guard Chase Ross then hit a timely 3-pointer and senior guard Tyler Kolek iced the game at the charity stripe, ending in the 84-79 final score.

“We’ve seen all the teams around the country losing games like this,” junior forward David Joplin said. “Our connectivity showed. We knew that — they cut it to a one-point game, they’re a good team — stuff like that can happen if we’re not doing the things we need to. So we just took a deep breath, took a step back and then moved forward.”

In the final 4:31, St. Thomas went 4-for-6 from deep and 6-for-9 from the field.

In the entire second half, the Tommies outscored the Golden Eagles 46-39 and went 8-for-17 from beyond the arc. Marquette’s clip from the field in the final period of play was 10-for-27 (37%).

Avoiding the buy-game defeat

Smart knew — like Joplin said — that teams were losing buy games everywhere. So he made sure his players knew too.

Before the game, he displayed a graphic that showed five different college basketball games around the country and their scores.

The first was Marquette vs. Purdue, then Purdue vs. Northwestern, followed by Northwestern vs. Chicago State, Chicago State vs. St. Thomas and finally St. Thomas vs. Marquette — with the score left blank.

Going down the list, every team that had won also lost to the team that came after it.

“We talked it out, and talked through the fact that, as a player or as a coach, you understand that the game has not won because you beat a team that beat that team, and it’s not lost because you lost to a team that lost to that team,” Smart said. “Anyone could beat anyone, and I think the focus for our team and I think most coaches would agree with this is, just being our best, the best us every time.”

Statistical leaders

Senior forward Oso Ighodaro finished with 21 points, shooting 7-for-10 from the field. Kolek earned a double-double of 12 points and a season-high 10 assists.

For St. Thomas, senior guard Drake Dobbs led with 14 points and four other Tommies — Bjorklund (10), Kendall Blue (13), Ben Nau (12) and Carter Bjerke (11) — scored double-digits.

Stevie Mitchell availability in question against Providence

Junior guard Stevie Mitchell missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury, and Smart said his availability is unknown at this time.

“He’s making progress with his hamstring, really working hard every day with the trainer’s. But it’s one of those injuries that you can’t really tough your way through it,” Smart said. “If it was, he would’ve played already because he’s as tough as they come.

“But we just got to make sure that we keep in mind long term. Him healing up and being able to be 100% long term. So the answer is, ‘I’m not sure.'”

Marquette opens Big East play at Providence (8-2) Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. CST at Amica Mutual Pavilion.

This article was written by Jack Albright. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @JackAlbrightMU.

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About the Contributor
Jack Albright
Jack Albright, Executive Sports Editor
Jack Albright is a sophomore from Charlton, Massachusetts studying journalism. He is the Executive Sports Editor of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-24 school year. In his free time, Jack likes to hang out with friends and watch Formula 1. He is excited to write fun stories about all things Marquette athletics and oversee new types of digital content.

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