The eight-day layoff since the last time the Golden Eagles took the floor sparked some post-holiday school spirit at Fiserv Forum on Saturday, as Marquette fans turned out to the tune of 18,086 strong to see the Golden Eagles take on #22 Creighton for the last game of 2023, a new Marquette attendance record. Knocking off the holiday dust was the name of the game early, but behind a strong second-half, Marquette would stage a thrilling late-game comeback to crank the decibel levels and upend Big East Conference rival Creighton 72-67.
Marquette welcomed back junior guard and defensive guru Stevie Mitchell into the lineup on Saturday after a four-game absence due to a hamstring injury, and after a deserved ovation from the Marquette faithful, the game tipped and the sluggish start began. Marquette opened up on 1 of 10 shooting, and that would only continue through the first half, where at 7:17 left to go, Marquette was shooting 4-22 from the field and had just 10 points. Volume shooting from the outside didn't help, as the Golden Eagles attempted a whopping 20 shots from beyond the arc but only managed to hit 3 of them. Two of those three were made by Kam Jones in the waning minutes of the half to start to chip away at the double-digit deficit.
Creighton managed to play a strong first half despite the home-crowd sellout, relying mostly on shots on the perimeter. Jays sharpshooter Baylor Scheierman was content behind the arc, hitting 4 of 6 from deep on his way to 12 first-half points, a trend that would continue into the second half. When we asked head coach Shaka Smart in the postgame presser about running into hot perimeter shooters like Scheierman, he said, “...when you’re helping each other, sometimes you’re going to lose guys on the perimeter, and they did a good job of making us pay today”. Scheierman would finish with seven made threes, but it wouldn't be enough to carry Creighton through what would be a loud second half.
Creighton opened the second half with another pair of deep 3’s from Baylor Scheierman, extending the Jays lead after Marquette had closed it to end the first half. But it wasn't long before the Golden Eagles were turning stops into their patented “kills” defense and turning those stops into points. After a couple of rough shooting nights, Sean Jones finally got back to seeing the bottom of the net, hitting two different momentum-shifting threes that churned the record-setting crowd into some of the loudest moments of the season at Fiserv Forum. Marquette captured its first lead of the game with 12:30 left to go and would push the lead to 7 in the waning minutes until the fouls took over and Marquette iced the game at the free throw line.
Tyler Kolek once again stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds, tying Sean Jones for the team lead in points. A rather quiet night from Oso Ighodaro offensively translated to a bigger impact on the defensive end, where he was able to shut down Creighton big man Ryan Kalkbrenner to 8 points and just 3 rebounds. Kam Jones added 12 points, and hometown kid David Joplin had 10, including his first career dunk, which sparked a delightful celebration in his hometown.
#10 Marquette improves to 11-3 on the season and 2-1 in Big East Conference play. The Golden Eagles head to South Orange, NJ to take on Seton Hall next Saturday at 12pm EST.