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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

STARTING 5: No. 2 Marquette returns to Round of 32 to take on No. 10 Colorado

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Tyler Kolek will be key for Marquette in its Round of 32 matchup against Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Marquette men’s basketball has advanced to the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.

The No. 2 seed Golden Eagles will face 10-seeded Colorado at 11:10 a.m. CST Friday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

“It’s great to be back,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “We’re excited about this game tomorrow for our guys… Colorado’s got a terrific team. Coach Boyle’s done an awesome job for a long time there… So it’s going to be a heck of a challenge and an exciting game.”

Here are five things to look out for in Sunday’s second round game:

Elite point guard play

Sunday will feature a matchup between two of the best point guards in the country in Colorado’s KJ Simpson and Marquette’s Tyler Kolek.

Kolek – who earned 18 points and 11 assists in his return Friday — leads the nation in assists per game with 7.8. The senior guard is also averaging 15.1 points per contest while shooting 40% from deep and 48% overall.

“He is an elite level passer,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. “There’s a reason he leads the country in assists… But he can also score the ball, so he creates problems for other teams…

“We’ve played against some point guards who can score the ball at an elite level, but not pass it quite as well as he does. So it will be a challenge. Big part of the game tomorrow.”

On the other hand, Simpson leads the Buffaloes in scoring (19.7 ppg), shooting a team-leading 44% from beyond the arc and at a 47% overall clip.

The First-Team All-Pac 12 honoree — who finished with 23 points on 7-for-12 shooting — hit the game-winning baseline jumper Friday with two seconds left to lift his team over the 7-seed Florida Gators in the Round of 64.

“He’s a good player,” junior guard Stevie Mitchell said. “Obviously, he made huge plays down the stretch last night, so we’re not going to hold him scoreless, but we can just do our best to make things tough on ’em and make ’em earn everything.”

Defensive effort will be key

Colorado scored 102 points in its two-point win over Florida, which marked the most points in its program history scored in the NCAA Tournament. It also shot 60% from deep and 63% from the field while all five of its starters finished in double figures.

“All the guys on their team can go offensively, they’re all skilled, they can all shoot, they can all drive, they can all pass,” Mitchell said. “So just first things first, acknowledging that and just knowing it’s going to take each and every one of us to guard the ball as five and just step up to that challenge.”

After falling behind in the first half, Marquette held Western Kentucky to just 26 points (11-for-33) in the second half of its first round game, scoring 21 points off 18 forced turnovers.

Second-round scaries

Last year in the Round of 32, No. 2 seed Marquette faced 7-seeded Michigan State and were down by one with 3:36 left to play.

The Golden Eagles then allowed the Spartans to go on a 13-5 run to close out the game, ending their season on a sour note. Marquette hasn’t made it to the Sweet 16 since 2013.

“Coach had pointed out going into that game, we had won 10 in a row,” Jones said. “Losing that game was a very different feeling. It felt like for a minute, I had forgotten what it felt like to lose… A lot of mistakes that game were a huge learning experience for us.”

Jones said staying in the moment down the stretch will be as important as it has ever been in Sunday’s game.

“This game is not promised to us,” Jones said. “It’s win or go home…. It’s cutthroat, and nothing’s promised to you. Like I said, now is the time to do the things that we’ve said we wanted to do.”

Colorado’s size

The Buffaloes’ starting five features four players that are over 6-foot-5 — senior Eddie Lampkin Jr. being the tallest.

The 6-foot-11, 265-pound center averages a near double-double with 10.7 points and seven boards per game. 6-foot-9 Tristan da Silva is Colorado’s second leading scorer (16 ppg) and finished with 17 points against Florida.

But Smart said it’s nothing his team isn’t used to.

“It’s really nothing new for our guys, but on the other hand, in the game of basketball positional size is a real factor,” Smart said. “Really other than at the five spot (Oso Ighodaro). Other than that position, they’re bigger than us, and even at that spot — Lampkin is really strong. But my college coach always used to say, it’s too late to cancel, so we’re going to play the game.”

Fatigue factor

Sunday will be the third game that Colorado has played in five days.

The Buffaloes were a First Four team, defeating fellow No. 10 seed Boise State 63-53 Wednesday before taking down Florida.

“This is the biggest stage,” da Silva said. “This is where you want to play. There’s still a little bit of jitters, there’s excitement, nervousness, that pushes you through. You don’t really feel that tired.

“All the soreness — once you warm up — goes away, fades away. You just live in the moment. You play the game that you love, and that’s probably applicable to all of our guys.”

For Marquette, through the physical struggles Mitchell and the rest of the Golden Eagles have faced, he said he doesn’t let them affect his level of play.

“How I play, I’m going to play reckless regardless,” Mitchell said. “For me, I feel like it’s just the pain in the locker room after we lost to UConn the biggest tournament, the pain in the locker room last year we lost to Michigan State. That’s worse than any bumps or bruises that anybody’s dealing with…

“Knowing that I’m not a hundred percent, but nobody’s a hundred percent, and just being aware of that, acknowledging it, and then just going out there and just giving it all I got.”

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, 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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    Bob and Lois BenderMar 24, 2024 at 7:45 am

    As usual Kaylynn, this is a very well written article and very informative. Great job.

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