Busting Brackets

Marquette Basketball: Golden Eagles Put Away Western Kentucky in Opening Round of NCAA Tournament

Marquette, the #2 seed in the South Region, made the short trip to Indianapolis with far greater tournament aspirations than the results they’ve had the last couple of years. After a shaky first half, against Western Kentucky, the Golden Eagles would run away in the second half and into the field of 32.
Western Kentucky v Marquette
Western Kentucky v Marquette / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The first round of the NCAA Tournament is like Christmas for basketball fans, and for Marquette fans, the big question heading into the NCAA Tournament was the health of Tyler Kolek. After sitting out for the entirety of the Big East Tournament, the message from the team, Shaka Smart, and Tyler himself was that he was 100% healthy and ready to go coming off an oblique injury that he suffered back in February. Kam Jones stepped up in a big way in his absence, and with both in tow to start the tournament, the Golden Eagles backcourt duo would shine and advance their way past the #15 seed, Western Kentucky, 87-69. 

Kolek would put any worries to rest early, aggressively commanding the offense and hitting a 3-pointer inside of the first minute to a roar from the Marquette faithful. Kolek was back, accounting for 8 of Marquette’s first 10 points, but Marquette would struggle stopping the Hilltoppers in the first half. After Marquette ran out to a 25-17 lead, Western Kentucky would go on an 18-2 run behind the hot shooting of Tyrone Marshall Jr. Converting 4 of 5 from deep, Marshall Jr. helped put Western Kentucky up by 10 with just over a minute left. Marquette would score the final two baskets of the half, but still surprisingly trailed the #15 seed Hilltopers by seven at the break. 

The second half was a different beast. After an uncharacteristically turnover-prone first half, Marquette took care of the ball and efficiently tied the game back up within the first three minutes. A quick 17-3 run ensured as Kolek continued to distribute throughout, showing no ill-effects from his oblique injury.

Much of that distribution went to Kam Jones. Jones remained hot coming out of the Big East Tournament, hitting 5 of 10 from deep on his way to a game-high 28 points, with 18 coming in the second half. Do-everything guard Stevie Mitchell added 13 of his own in the second half and also added a career-high 3 blocks. Marquette was too much for Western Kentucky down the stretch, as Marquette got the time needed to get back into full form with Kolek and ran away with the 18-point victory. 

Tyler Kolek would finish with 18 points and 11 assists. David Joplin would add 13 points and 11 rebounds. Oso Ighodaro had a rather quiet day, scoring 4 and grabbing 8 rebounds. 

Next. Most intriguing Round of 32 games . Most intriguing Round of 32 games . dark

It was a solid first-round showing for both Marquette as a team, and for their star point guard, Tyler Kolek. With a tournament win under their belt back as a full team, the Golden Eagles can be confident in their increased tournament aspirations. After Colorado defeated Florida in an absolute thriller, Marquette will turn their focus to the Buffaloes in the second round on Sunday in Indianapolis, with a trip to Dallas and the Sweet 16 on the line.