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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Marquette’s well-roundedness a key for postseason success

Stevie Mitchell drives to the hoop in Marquette’s 71-65 win over Villanova. He finished with 15 points. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

NEW YORK — Marquette men’s basketball can close out games without its starting point guard.

If the Golden Eagles’ 86-80 win over Xavier last Saturday didn’t prove it, their 71-65 overtime victory past Villanova in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals surely squashed any remaining doubt.

In the second half of their win over the Wildcats, junior guard Kam Jones drilled a 3-pointer to give the Golden Eagles a 46-35 lead, their largest lead of the game.

What followed that three was Villanova slowly clawing back until Justin Moore gave the Wildcats the 51-50 lead with 7:07 remaining and forced Shaka Smart to call timeout.

But Marquette dug deep, and were able to come out with a ticket to the semifinals thanks to clutch plays from multiple Golden Eagles.

Jones — who has assumed more of the point guard role in Kolek’s absence — led the way with a team-most 18 points, also dishing four assists and collecting six boards. Stevie Mitchell was right behind Jones with 15 points of his own to go along with five rebounds, of which three crucial ones came on the offensive glass.

David Joplin (14) and Chase Ross (11) were the other two Marquette players to score double-digits.

“They were giving Kam (Jones) and Jop (Joplin) a lot of attention. A lot,” Smart said in the postgame presser. “And they were very physical with Oso (Ighodaro). So that meant that other guys on our team had to step forward and be ready to make plays.”

The 6-foot-11 Ighodaro provided his usual well-balanced play, finishing with six rebounds and four assists, but he also hit a clutch hookshot with 18 seconds remaining in overtime to all-but-wrap-up the win.

“(Villanova’s Eric) Dixon did a nice job all night long of being physical and being aggressive. So I told (Ighodaro), I said ‘Hey, man, you got to attack Dixon the way you went at (Donovan) Clingan when we played UConn a couple weeks ago,'” Smart said. “He had a career-high shot attempts in that game and he was really physical. I thought he did that on the last play.”

The all-around performances from the Golden Eagles’ Kolek-less starting lineup was a big of why they won Thursday, and it will be key for their semifinal match against the Providence Friars at 7:00 p.m. CST.

“We’d love to win tomorrow night,” Smart said. “What our guys are showing these last couple of games, and even the two games we lost without Tyler is that we can compete with anyone, even while he’s recovering.”

Kolek doesn’t have a set return-date. It is still touch-and-go for the Cumberland, Rhode Island native right now.

But there is a lot of Marquette firepower opposing teams need to account for, and failing to do so could very well lead to their demise.

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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