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The Drama: #7 Marquette 84, St. Thomas 79

I wonder if UST head coach Johnny Tauer showed his team the Texas & Notre Dame tape and talked about meeting MU’s intensity?

St. Thomas v Marquette Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

If you were expected a relatively relaxed evening of Marquette men’s basketball viewing on Thursday evening, you did not get it.

Your final, from Fiserv Forum: #7 Marquette 84, St. Thomas 79, and it was closer than that.

Not all the way through. The game started off with Chase Ross putting Marquette up 13-6 just over four minutes in, which is about what you’d expect for that amount of time between two teams with about 200 KenPom rankings in between them when the game started.

And then UST started hitting shots. As in 8-for-10 inside the three-point line in the first half hitting shots. 8-0 run for the Tommies capped by a Carter Bjerke three-pointer — don’t let the guy shooting 45% on the year shoot open J’s in the corner, kids — and WHOOPS, the visitors were up 14-13.

Marquette answered with a 10-0 run that put them up 25-17 after an Oso Ighodaro dunk, and a Kam Jones three with 5:49 to go put the home team up 31-21. A three from Ben Gold made it a 10 point game again with 4:45 left. It wasn’t great that Marquette had to keep responding and answering, but it was becoming rapidly apparent that St. Thomas had no intention of backing down from Marquette and was more than happy to start scrapping it out with the Golden Eagles. Tyler Kolek said “I’m putting this ball in that net, deal with it,” and so Marquette went to the locker room with a 45-33 halftime lead.

Between it being Finals Week and two incredibly high intensity games against Texas and Notre Dame last week, you could see how, as Shaka Smart put it after the Notre Dame game, a little bit of human nature creeped in and caused Marquette to not approach this game with 100% of the same fire that they showed against the Longhorns and the Irish.

The Tommies scored the first two buckets of the second half, and they just kept chipping away at Marquette. Sean Jones’ second statbook dunk of the game (and the much more definitive dunk of the two) put the Golden Eagles up 56-43, their largest margin of the game to that point, with 15:20 to go. Maybe everything was hashed out at halftime, and thus MU can get to work salting this one away.

Nope.

A three from Bjerke and two more from Ben Nau made it a four point game with 13:15 to go.

Chase Ross drained two free throws to get it back to a 12 point game, 68-56, with 6:55 to go. Okay, now it’s time to hammer the point home.

Nope.

Perhaps fueled by the very audible and at times very visible Tommies fans in the building, a 16-5 St. Thomas run across just 2:52 of clock time made it a one point game, 75-74, with three minutes to go. This is where UST was just throwing in contested three after contested three. What are you supposed to do when guys are hitting shots over a stationary David Joplin and a stationary Ben Gold right in front of them? Marquette’s defensive principles were executing, the Tommies were just hitting shots. 8-for-17 from behind the arc in the second half, 8-for-11 inside of it.

Speaking of hitting shots, this seems like a great time to mention that Parker Bjorkland came into the game as UST’s top scorer, and he didn’t even attempt a shot in the first half. He was 3-for-5 after halftime though, recording all 10 of his points in the second half and all 10 of them came on this 16-5 run. This included a five point possession for the Tommies after Oso Ighodaro was ruled to have committed a Flagrant 1 foul against Bjorkland. This was after, by the way, UST’s Kendall Blue committed a very obvious Flagrant 1 foul against Ighodaro just three game minutes earlier.

The game got a wee bit rough in the second half, that’s what I’m saying.

Where were we? Oh, right, 75-54, 3:01 to play.

Marquette answered with a very sweet looking “oh, he’s got this” three-pointer as Chase Ross rose and fired with 2:41 to go. Time was Marquette’s friend here, and the longer it took UST to do anything, the better. They would eventually score, getting a bucket from Drake Dobbs with 1:20 to go. [Aside: I can’t argue with the stat sheet that says that Dobbs had 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting, but I swear to you that it felt to me like he had 25 points in this game and was just running completely wild all over the court. Maybe it’s because the 6’2” Dobbs was the poster child for UST’s entire “we’re not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” vibe in this game.]

The clock came into play after this, as UST fouled Kolek after an inbounds after Bjorkland blocked a Kam Jones layup attempt out of bounds, and by the way, this was not a “oooooo, just got enough of it!” block. Kolek connected on two, Marquette by 4, 1:03 left.

Dobbs missed a three, Pat Driscoll called a seemingly incredibly iffy on replay offensive clearout foul on Kam Jones, UST threw the ball away. Two more freebies for Kolek, 82-76, 15 seconds left. All done?

NOPE, Brooks Allen fired in a three-pointer. Three point game, 9 seconds left. I’ve seen stupider things happen, mostly because Creighton threw an inbounds pass out of bounds that one time. But the Tommies had to foul to extend the game, Kolek was clutch again, and that was finally that.

High scoring honors goes to Oso Ighodaro, who took advantage of the Tommies’ general lack of size to the tune of 21 points, 8 rebounds, two assists, and two steals. All five starters hit for double digits, with Tyler Kolek getting a double-double on 12 points and 10 rebounds.

How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?

Up Next: That was it for non-con action, and so that means Big East play is next. Marquette gets that started on Tuesday night when they make their way east to face Providence in the league opener for both teams. The Friars are 8-2 on the year with a win over Wisconsin as their highlight, and they’ll close out non-con action on Saturday against Sacred Heart.