A defensive identity is a good way to win basketball games.
An even better way? A defensive identity combined with a great performance from your preseason All-American who was questionable to play before the game tipped off.
Tyler Kolek finished up Tuesday night’s adventures in Champaign with a game high 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals after leaving #4 Marquette’s previous game with a twisted ankle. On the other end of the court, MU held #23 Illinois to just 0.93 points per possession, no two point buckets for the final 11 minutes, and no field goals at all for the final 3:11. All of that adds up to a 71-64 road win for the favorites in the Big East, and they move to 3-0 on the season.
Marquette made the first big run of the game, scoring nine straight, six straight from Kolek by himself, and with 14:15 left in the first half, the visitors were up 13-7. Illinois tied the game at 17 and again at 19, but Marquette never officially surrendered the lead. An and-1 from David Joplin put the Golden Eagles up seven, and a layup from Kolek made it an eight point margin with 21 seconds left before halftime. Unfortunately for MU, Luke Goode drained a three-pointer, one of four makes from downtown for him, right before the horn, so it was 36-31 Marquette at intermission.
Illinois had the advantage coming out of the locker room, and after an ill-fated layup attempt by Kolek in transition was swatted out of the sky by Coleman Hawkins, Terrance Shannon put the Illini out in front, 42-40. Threes from Shannon and Goode would put the home team up three, but Marquette kept finding answers: A three from Kam Jones, a three from Tyler Kolek, ZOOOP, game tied back up again. Ty Rodgers would answer that Kolek triple with a layup with 11:21 left in the game.
That would be Illinois’ final two-point basket of the entire game.
With 11:21 to go.
Marquette answered Rodgers with an 8-0 run on a bucket from Oso Ighodaro, a bucket from Kolek, a triple from Sean Jones, and a split pair of freebies from Kam Jones. Team effort, everyone has to contribute, you get the picture.
It was the last two-pointer for the Illini, not the last field goal. Goode hit a three with 6:20 to go to keep the game close, and another three from Terrence Shannon with 3:12 to go pulled Illinois within four, 64-60, with 3:12 to play.
That would be Illinois’ final field goal of any kind for the game.
Marquette answered it with four points of their own to make it an eight point game with 2:12 to play, and while there was drama for the remainder of the time, the Golden Eagles were able to close the door, throw the deadbolt, and hang up the chain. After Shannon hit some free throws to make it a four point game with less than 30 seconds to play, Marquette burned some clock, Kolek split some free throws, and Kam Jones hauled in the miss on Coleman Hawkins’ last attempt to pull Illinois back into a chance to win.
Kolek was great, his first legitimately great game of the season, but Marquette also got a 15&5 and two steals from Kam Jones as well as 13 points, eight rebounds, and three steals from Oso Ighodaro to help drive the car home for the night.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: Marquette gets a decent amount of time to rest, but it’s not all rest days. At some point this weekend, they’ll head to Hawaii and face off with UCLA on Monday night in the first game of the 2023 Maui Invitational. The Bruins are 2-0 right now and will host LIU on Wednesday before they make the trip to Hawaii themselves. Tipoff for that game is set for 10:30pm Central time, and ESPN2 will have the broadcast.