Tyler Kolek sharp in return as No. 2 Marquette beats Western Kentucky

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 23 Mar, 2024 at 06:15 AM

Credit: Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tyler Kolek returned from a three-week absence and fell just four rebounds shy of a triple-double to help South Region No. 2 seed Marquette pull away in the second half for a 87-69 win over No. 15 Western Kentucky on Friday.

Kolek, who finished with 18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, showed no ill effects from an oblique injury suffered in the second half of Marquette's win over Providence on Feb. 28.

Kolek hit two long threes on his first two shot attempts of the game and scored 10 points in the opening seven minutes of the first half, helping Marquette (26-9) build an early 26-17 lead.

"I really haven't felt out of the groove at all, even in practice," Kolek said. "The two days that I did go full go -- it's been basketball. I've been playing this game a long time. Once I hit the floor, some obvious jitters because I haven't played since three weeks now, but I think 37 minutes, most minutes in a game, so I thought I did all right with the wind."

Marquette advances to the second round on Sunday in Indianapolis. The Golden Eagles will face No. 10 Colorado, which beat No. 7 seed Florida 102-100.

Kam Jones made five 3-pointers and poured in 28 points for Marquette. Stevie Mitchell added 16 points and David Joplin added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Golden Eagles.

"In the second half, I think really to a man, our whole team ramped up our aggressiveness on the defensive end; much, much more Marquette basketball, flying around, getting our hands on the basketball," Golden Eagles coach Shaka Smart said.

There were a combined 14 turnovers in the opening 11 minutes, with Western Kentucky (22-12) committing nine. The Hilltoppers had 18 for the game.

Tyrone Marshall Jr. scored 17 of his team-leading 21 in the first half while Don McHenry was the only other Hilltopper in double figures with 11 points.

"The first half I guess they were sagging off a little bit, so I had to show them that I could shoot the ball and I can drive, so I can make passes or I can get my teammates going," Marshall said. "The second half I guess they just denied me. But it really didn't slow me down. I was still trying to get my teammates going with shots, like Don, just trying to get him back in the game with me and stuff."

A slick cross-over dribble by McHenry led to an open jumper that he drained to give the Hilltoppers a 32-31 lead. The triple was part of a 9-0 run that put Western Kentucky up, 34-31.

Another 9-0 spurt capped WKU's 24-5 run that gave them a 43-33 lead with 1:40 left in the half, thrilling the fans who made the 225-mile trek north from Bowling Green, Ky. to support the Hilltoppers.

Ben Gold's driving layup with two seconds left in the half closed WKU's lead to 43-36 at the break.

Khristian Lander's trey just over a minute into the second half put WKU back up eight, 46-38.

But Marquette's faithful finally got into the game in the second half as the Golden Eagles outscored the Hilltoppers, 15-2, over the next four minutes.

Marshall's luck appeared to turn a bit in the second half as he mishandled a dunk attempt on a perfect alley-oop pass from McHenry that would've tied the game. Instead, David Joplin capped the ensuing possession on the fast break by drilling a corner three that put Marquette up, 53-48.

WKU made one more run to tie the game at 55 on McHenry's three with 11:55 left. But back-to-back threes from Joplin and Jones highlighted a 23-10 spurt and put Marquette up, 78-65, with 4:22 remaining.

"Obviously losing stinks," Hilltoppers coach Steve Lutz said. "These guys invested a lot of time and energy. They invested their heart and soul in this. It's no fun to lose this basketball game on a stage like this, but like I told them, there are no losers when you get to this point. Everybody that is in the NCAA Tournament is good. They're special. They're a very good team."

--Mike Petraglia, Field Level Media