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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Kam Jones scores 30 points in Marquette’s 86-80 regular season finale win over Xavier

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Kam Jones scored 30 points in March 30 win over Xavier as Kolek was out with an injury. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

CINCINNATI, Ohio — No. 8 Marquette men’s basketball had played two games without senior guard Tyler Kolek before Saturday and had nothing to show for it in the win-loss column.

Both — one on the road at Creighton and one at home against UConn — were hard-fought games that had the Golden Eagles stepping up without their point guard and fighting until the end, but coming up short. 

But Saturday, the regular season finale, was the same story with a different outcome.

Marquette (23-8, 14-6 Big East) used important buckets down the stretch from multiple players, not to mention a 30-point masterclass from Kam Jones, to beat the Xavier Musketeers (15-16, 9-11 Big East) 86-80 at the Cintas Center.

“When you get to this level, there’s no real awards given for playing well and losing,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “And you get to March you have to find a way to win games like this, so it’s a big one for us.”

Kam Jones erupts for 30 points

Junior guard Kam Jones played a pivotal role in securing the victory, putting up 30 points, 12 of which came in the second half. He shot 12-for-17 and 4-for-6 from deep.

He tied the game 70-70 with a layup. He gave Marquette the 72-71 advantage with another layup. He drilled a step-back three to put the Golden Eagles ahead, 75-73.

He would get two more driving layups — including a highlight-reel windmill finish — with under a minute left to give his team the 82-76 lead.

For the final four minutes, Jones toyed with Xavier like a cat with a mouse, and the Musketeers had to sit there and take it.

“It (his go-ahead three) did feel good leaving my hands. The hook also felt good leaving my hands,” Jones said. “I kind of figured those two were going in when I shot them.”

Along with his game-high points, Jones also dished out a career-most nine assists and grabbed five boards.

He and senior forward Oso Ighodaro — who scored a career-high 24 points — linked up for most of the game on the Golden Eagles’ pick-and-roll actions, which overbore the Musketeers’ defense near the rim and led to 44 paint points.

“He’s all of a sudden become our point guard because both of our point guards (Sean Jones and Kolek) are not playing right now,” Smart said. “It’s different when you’re the primary ball handler…

“He’s tough to deal with because he can put spin on the ball from different angles, he can finish with this right hand, left hand and obviously shot the ball well from outside.”

Mitchell and Gold score necessary second-half points

Along with Jones’ important buckets, Stevie Mitchell and Ben Gold hit important shots to help the Golden Eagles earn the win.

Marquette went into the locker room leading 37-33 after going on an extended 12-3 run down the stretch, but Xavier came out and scored 13 quick points — nine coming from Quincy Olivari — to take a 46-41 lead.

The Golden Eagles didn’t grab the lead back until Gold hit a 3-pointer to make it 59-57 with 10:36 remaining. He hit another three to put Marquette ahead 64-61 minutes later. The Wellington, New Zealand native finished with eight points and shot 2-for-2 from beyond the arc.

After the two teams went back-and-forth, Mitchell got involved and drained maybe the most important three of the game, which gave the Golden Eagles a 78-74 lead with just under three minutes remaining.

“They say it’s a make or miss game,” Smart said. “Xavier went to some type of defense where they left Stevie open. If he doesn’t make the shot, maybe I’m sitting up here talking about a different result. He stepped up. He made the shot.”

The junior guard then went 4-for-4 at the charity stripe to ice the game and finish with 11 points, nine of which came in the final 20 minutes.

“They’re just doing their thing out there. That ain’t nothing that we know they can’t do,” Jones said.

“I see how hard they work. We see how they work. They’re just doing their thing out there. We’ve seen BG (Gold) make that three plenty of times. Stew (Mitchell), if they want to keep leaving him open, please do. We’ll take that all day.”

Golden Eagles look ahead to Big East Tournament

Marquette may have ended its regular season on a high-note, but it needs to quickly turn the page and look to the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden next week.

The Golden Eagles are the No. 3 seed in the tournament and earned the first-round bye, meaning they play the winner of No. 6/No. 11 game (Villanova vs. DePaul) Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. CST.

“Whoever we play, we’re just going to have our focus on them,” Jones said.

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, 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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