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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 is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013

Marquette+mens+basketball+celebrates+in+the+locker+room+with+a+speaker+after+its+win+over+Colorado.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29
Marquette men’s basketball celebrates in the locker room with a speaker after its win over Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Tyler Kolek hunched his back, closed his fists, flexed and yelled out for the world to hear. David Joplin came up from behind him and gave him a hug. Stevie Mitchell embraced Oso Ighodaro.

Shaka Smart clapped his hands as he walked down the line to meet with Colorado head coach Tad Boyle.

Hands were shook, words were shared and congrats were given.

Then it began. The real celebration.

After all, there was much to cheer about.

For the first time in 11 years, No. 2 seed Marquette men’s basketball booked its ticket to the Sweet 16, beating Colorado 81-77 Sunday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in the Round of 32.

They made their way off the court. First was Ighodaro leading the charge, who gave six emphatic claps before exiting the bowels into the cramped Golden Eagles’ dressing room. Behind came the rest of the Marquette contingent.

Last in the room was Smart, overrun with emotion and not hiding his feelings.

“I’m grateful for our fans. One of the things about Marquette is there’s a high standard here. The games, and particularly this time of year, are so incredibly meaningful to the folks that have followed our program for so long,” Smart said in the postgame presser.

“Then we’ve been through a lot as a group together, really 90 some percent of the things we’ve been through have been very positive, but you tend to remember some of the hard times, as well: The loss to Michigan State, Tyler’s injury, Chase was banged up this year all year long, Sean Jones tearing his ACL. We’ve had some adversity.

“But guys have never wavered in terms of their belief in our playing and our way, and they stayed connected with one another. Relationships is our number one advantage, and that’s just something that we believe in, and I think it won us the game today.”

In the locker room, Kolek — who led with 21 points, 11 assists and six rebounds — was the man who did the honors of stamping the Marquette nameplate on the bracket.

He hit it so hard the first time, it fell off. So he dutifully placed it back up before turning around to the entire team to celebrate.

“Even for this group we feel like it’s been a long time coming,” Kolek said. “That first year (against UNC) didn’t go how we wanted. Second year (against Michigan State) certainly didn’t go how we wanted, and then coming back this year we had a vengeance.

“I told the guys before the game, this moment has been in our nightmares and we’re not running from it anymore.”

Then the speaker came out, hoisted high above by first-year Tre Norman. Because if the music is still playing for Marquette’s season, it should be for their celebrations, too.

A state of euphoria washed over everyone as they celebrated the titanic achievement.

They stopped it all. The ridicule. The mocking. The questions of “well what about NCAA Tournament success?” directed at Smart.

What was said after last year’s disappointment no longer remains true. And they know it.

“Just knowing that we were able to do something mainly that we just weren’t able to do last year, and it’s something you’ve been working towards all year. When you put all your effort time and energy into something and it goes the way you want it to go. I mean, that’s a great feeling,” Mitchell said.

“It just gives you even more trust of the process, what we believe in. So just going forward, just continue to lean on our culture and what we what we do is something that’s gonna be huge for us.”

All year Marquette looked toward March. What happened in the games prior mattered, yes, but it didn’t hold the same value.

Because nothing does. Nothing compares to the joie de vivre of the Big Dance.

“Just be ready,” junior forward David Joplin said. “We’re not done yet.”

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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