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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Tyler Kolek’s memorable NCAA Tournament weekend

Tyler Kolek celebrates with his team after advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Tyler Kolek’s return after missing six games with an oblique injury was one of the biggest storylines in the NCAA Tournament.

And his first two games back weren’t just good, they were historic.

In Marquette men’s basketball’s Round of 64 87-69 win against Western Kentucky Friday, he put up a double-double of 18 points and 11 assists, also grabbing six rebounds. Sunday against Colorado, he got a second-straight double-double (21 points, 11 assists) and grabbed five boards.

Those two performances made him the first Marquette player since Dwyane Wade to have at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in a game since assists became an official stat in 1984. And he did it twice.

He is also the first player since 2010 to put up at least 10 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in multiple games in the same NCAA Tournament.

According to Marquette stat blog PaintTouches, Kolek created 54 points in the Round of 64 and 50 points in the Round of 32, the most by any MU player in history.

“All year I’ve been sharing the ball like that. I think I lead the country in assists, so it’s not really anything new,” Kolek said. “Guys are making shots, making plays when I give them the ball, and I’m grateful for them.”

He is playing at a level almost no one else in program history has been able to reach.

“I thought he was terrific all game, not just the second half. He’s very crafty. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s a dual threat because he can really get to that left hand,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said.

“But he’s a terrific player. You appreciate him on film, then you appreciate him with his numbers, but then you play against him, and you’re like, holy cow, that kid is special. He’s a good player.”

Kam Jones moved back to his primary role 

With Kolek back, Kam Jones was no longer responsible for the main ball-handling duties, so he went back to work as Marquette’s go-to shooter.

In Friday’s win, Jones missed his first shot, but went on to finish 10-for-16 overall and 5-for-10 from deep. He led everyone with 28 points — 18 of which came in the second half — and played like one of the best scorers in the country.

“Well, that first shot slipped. It slipped out of my right hand,” Jones said. “I mean, Coach just did a good job of, like he said, changing the look on your face, and I feel like first half, me personally, I was a little tight.

“I just really, really, really wanted to win. I think that’s good, but you’ve got to find a way to channel it and have a clear mind.”

Sunday, Jones put up a seamless 16 points in the first half, shooting an efficient 6-for-9 from the field and going 4-of-7 on threes. He dealt with foul trouble in the second half, though, and played only 10 of the final 20 minutes, putting up 18 total points.

The weekend was a continuation of what has been an impactful month for Jones.

“I would just say I just be out there being myself,” Jones said. “Basketball, that’s all I do. That’s what all we done our whole lives is play basketball. So the stage is bigger, obviously. But nothing about the game changes.

“The rims are 10 feet. You got a ball with two teams, with five players on the court and a coach, and that’s pretty much what I like to do. I just like to go out there, be myself.”

Sweet 16 birth ‘validation’ Smart’s system is still viable

After the victory over Colorado, Shaka Smart pointed to the crowd after his postgame handshake overrun with emotion.

Sunday wasn’t just a win for him, it was what he deemed proof operating a program like he does can still lead to success on the national scale.

Smart is one of the few coaches to spurn the transfer portal and NIL. It makes him, in a sense, the black sheep of college basketball coaches.

Instead of the rinse-and-recycle program-building method adopted by the majority of coaches around the country, Smart likes to build his team and players up over time.

“We don’t go about things in a transactional manner,” Smart said. “Not saying that anyone else does. But for us, we’re old fashioned. We still enjoy getting to know guys during the recruiting process, building a relationship with them and their families.”

The Golden Eagles returned 87.9% of its scoring from last season, and didn’t accrue a single transfer despite losing starter Olivier-Maxence Prosper to the NBA Draft.

Instead of giving preference to high school or outside players, Smart prioritizes the guys already in his program. It breeds a level of connectivity unlike anywhere else in the country.

“We’ve tried to do it the old-fashioned way, recruiting mostly high school guys,” Smart said to Big East Digital Network’s Paul Fritschner in a postgame interview. “We’ve tried to make sure that the guys in our program know we’re invested in them over taking a bunch of transfers.

“Nothing against that, if that’s what other people do, but we’ve tried to do it our way. So really, one of the best things about winning today is it’s a validation of our way of doing things.”

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
Jack Albright, Assistant Sports Editor
Jack Albright is a junior from Charlton, Massachusetts studying journalism. He is an Assitant Sports Editor for the 2024-2025 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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