March Madness Notebook: Kolek shines in return for Marquette

Mar. 23—INDIANAPOLIS — If Tyler Kolek was feeling any rust, it wasn't evident Friday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Marquette's senior guard hadn't played since Feb. 28 because of an oblique injury, but the nation's assists leader was in fine form during the second-seeded Golden Eagles' 87-69 first-round victory against Western Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament's South Region.

Kolek shot 7-of-13 from the floor and finished with 18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his first action for nearly a month.

"I 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, (there were) some obvious jitters because I haven't played since three weeks now. But I think (I played) 37 minutes, the most minutes in a game, so I thought I did all right with the wind."

Marquette was on upset alert trailing 43-36 at intermission, but it used a 12-5 run to tie the game by the first media timeout of the second half and pulled away from there.

Coach Shaka Smart was impressed with the way his team responded to its first challenge of the postseason.

"We talk about building championship habits," Smart said. "One of the most important of those is the way we respond to adversity, and the guys did a great job of that today."

Kam Jones led four Golden Eagles (26-9) in double figures with 28 points, shooting 10-of-16 from the floor and 5-of-10 from 3-point range.

Stevie Mitchell added 16 points, and David Joplin finished with 13 for Marquette.

It's no coincidence the offense kicked into high gear when Kolek found his comfort zone in the second half. Ten of his 11 assists came after the break.

"We kind of went away from the 1-5 ball screens because they were doing a good job hedging, getting out there," Kolek said of the Hilltoppers defense. "We were going more me and Kam playing in a two-man game, playing on the side of the floor with a guard or wing.

"And we were struggling with that keeping me out of the paint, so we just changed that up, and we got to what we want to get to."


Western Kentucky's Tyrone Marshall Jr. was 4-of-6 from 3-point range and scored 17 points in the first half for the Hilltoppers (22-12).

But the Marquette adjusted, and the senior forward scored just four points after intermission. He did not attempt a 3-point shot in the second half.

"It's as fundamental as changing the look on our face when we're guarding him," Smart said. "We really challenged David Joplin and all of our guys, and I thought they did a nice job on him in the second half. He's a good player, and he's a downhill driver.

"When he made four threes in the first half, it's like, 'OK, we've got to guard both.' But the guys were much, much more aggressive (in the second half)."

Marshall noted the respect he earned from Marquette with his first-half shooting, but he didn't think the second-half adjustments took away his game.

"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 (McHenry, who had 11 points), just trying to get him back in the game with me and stuff."


KJ Simpson drove to the baseline and hit a fadeaway jumper with just over one second remaining to give No. 10 Colorado a 102-100 victory against No. 7 Florida in one of the day's most entertaining games at any site.

Simpson's jumper came moments after a long 3-pointer from Walter Clayton Jr. tied the game for the Gators (24-12). Clayton finished with a game-high 33 points on 10-of-17 shooting.

Simpson had 23 points to lead Colorado (26-10). The Buffaloes will face Marquette in Sunday's second round.

"We always go through preparation, time and score situations like that in practice," Simpson said. "It was just another one of those times where we had to execute. Obviously, it was a play that was set up. There was multiple actions out of it, happened to break free and was just looking to drive, create something, whatever was the best play and noticed the defender got a little bit off balance, and that's a shot I shoot a bunch of times.

"Credit to my teammates, and Cody (Williams) threw me a great pass that was able to guide me and lead me in that direction and just stepping up and hitting a shot."


Utah State's 88-72 victory against TCU snapped a 10-game NCAA Tournament losing streak for the school dating back to 2001.

Ian Martinez led four Aggies in double figures with 21 points, and Darius Brown II added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Next up is No. 1 seed Purdue and reigning national player of the year Zach Edey.

"We know how physical they are, and we're going to have to play like we did tonight," Utah State coach Danny Sprinkle said. "We have to play with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder. We know the place is going to be rocking, and they got unbelievable fans, and so it's going to be fun, but we have to be really good offensively and defensively to have a chance to win that in the last eight minutes."