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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Golden Eagles perform in the clutch to beat Colorado 81-77 and move to Sweet 16

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David Joplin hit two game-sealing free throws in Marquette’s 81-77 win over Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Marquette men’s basketball had been in this situation before.

With three minutes left to play, the game was tied at 74 after the Buffaloes had come storming back in the second half and Shaka Smart called timeout.

But instead of letting Colorado takeover — like it allowed Michigan State to do last year — Marquette stepped up to the challenge.

Sophomore guard Chase Ross sunk a 3-pointer on the very next play. Senior guard Tyler Kolek dribbled his way around defenders and netted a hook shot. And junior guard David Joplin put the finishing touches on the win hitting both of his free throws to put the Golden Eagles up by five with 7.4 seconds remaining.

“We actually talked about that in that huddle,” junior guard Kam Jones said. “Tie game three minutes left. It was like, ‘Man, we’ve been here before, we’re going to go take the game.’ Last year, we were in that situation hoping the game came to us, rather than doing what we do. Go out there, be aggressive and take the game.”

The initial offensive clinic. The second-half fight. The aggressiveness. The unwavering will-power to do what hadn’t been done in over a decade.

It all culminated into a No. 2 seed Golden Eagles’ 81-77 win over the 10-seeded Buffaloes to send them to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013.

“I’m just so grateful for our guys, the way they hung in there,” Smart said. “Colorado made a heck of a run… But our guys never blinked, never wavered… We made some mistakes, but we kept belief in each other. We stayed connected.”

Second half response

Colorado was down by 11 points heading into the locker room and came out with a vengeful mindset.

The Buffaloes went on a 16-7 run in the first four minutes, hitting their first five attempts from deep to tie the game at 52. But the Golden Eagles had the tools to fight the comeback.

“We came in here, we knew that they would come out aggressive,” sophomore forward Ben Gold said. “It’s March Madness. It’s do or die. They want to win the game as much as we want to win it.

“We just know that every time that happens, we know how to respond and what to do. It’s happened multiple times this year. We’ve had the practice to fall back on throughout the year.”

Even when Colorado went up by one at the 13:39 mark, Marquette continued to fight as Kolek — who earned a double-double with 21 points and 11 assists — sunk a floater to regain the lead two possessions later.

Even after Jones picked up his fourth foul with 7:46 remaining and sat on the bench for five crucial minutes, the Golden Eagles didn’t let themselves get trampled into defeat.

“That’s who we are,” Jones said. “We’re a resilent team. We’re able to put adversity on teams, and we’re able to respond when adversity comes on us. That’s a big thing to have, especially in March Madness, a single elimination tournament.”

Marquette’s defense held Colorado scoreless in the final 2:55 to close out their Round of 32 game.

“That’s what you need,” Jones said. “You have to get stops to win, especially late in the game. The team who got the most stops wins the game pretty much in that last stretch.”

Golden Eagles’ transition offense on display

As Marquette’s defense swarmed the paint, its offense was able to get down the floor and take advantage on the other end, especially in the first half.

At the 15:52 mark, senior forward Oso Ighodaro stole the ball off an errant pass, which led to a made layup by junior guard Stevie Mitchell in transition, putting the Golden Eagles ahead 12-5.  

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle was forced to call a timeout at the 11:39 mark when Ross put Marquette in front 22-11 with another fastbreak layup.

Junior guard Kam Jones scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half as the Golden Eagles went into the locker room ahead by 11 points.

“Before games, you feel a level of fear and anxiety,” Jones said. “You want to win, you don’t want to lose. I’ve decided this year to try and tap into it rather than shy away from it. When I tap into it, I’m a different person. I play different. I have a different mindset. That’s a different approach I’m taking this year for sure.”

The Golden Eagles scored nine fast break points in the first half and finished shooting 68% (19-for-28) from the field and 46% (6-for-13) from deep. Their defense held the Buffaloes scoreless for the last 2:55, forcing seven turnovers and earning six steals.

Up next

Marquette will travel to Dallas, Texas to face 11-seeded NC State Friday in the Sweet 16.

“We’re not done yet,” Joplin said. “We’re not full, we’re still hungry. I’m super excited to be able to go to Dallas and play NC State. We earn ourselves another four-team tournament. We have to go out there and take it for sure.”

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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