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Never Any Doubt: #10 Marquette 72, #22 Creighton 67

The Golden Eagles bounce back from a truly horrendous start to win and move to 2-1 in Big East action.

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As the meme goes, they had us in the first half, I’m not gonna lie.

It was a wretched first five minutes for Marquette men’s basketball on Saturday afternoon against #22 Creighton, and that just kept on going for a good long while. But a good final five minutes of the first 20 minutes of the game led to a very good final 20 minutes overall, and the #10 ranked Golden Eagles get to celebrate a 72-67 victory over the Bluejays.

After Tyler Kolek scored Marquette’s first bucket of the game, Creighton rattled off the next 11 points. 14-3 for the visitors after a three from Baylor Scheierman with 14:51 to go. It was no bueno for the Golden Eagles on both ends, looking out of sorts and disconnected no matter if it was trying to get a stop or trying to get a shot to fall. Part of that was Creighton’s defensive choices, as Marquette got two early three-point looks from Stevie Mitchell, making his first appearance after a hamstring injury, and he came into the game shooting just 13% from beyond the arc.

As the half went along, it was clear that the Bluejays were okay with particular Golden Eagles letting it fly from long range. Marquette connected on just one of their first 12 three-point attempts, with Sean Jones (14%) and Chase Ross (30%) both adding two misses to the pile and Oso Ighodaro even got in on the (lack of) action. Along the way, Marquette was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball, committing eight first half turnovers along the way to trailing 24-14 with 5:51 left in the half after a three by Creighton’s Steven Ashworth.

A Tyler Kolek and-1 with 5:11 to go lit a spark in the Golden Eagles. That tripped off a 9-0 run by MU that tied the game at 26 with 3:36 to go, and it was like Marquette was never down 11 in the early going or down 10 just 90 seconds earlier at all. It ended up being 30-28 Creighton at intermission, and all things considered, that’s a successful 20 minutes of basketball. It’s not one they’re going to run on a loop at the Hall of Fame, not with both teams combining to commit 20 turnovers, but it’s one that can (and did!) work for Marquette, especially since MU adjusts at halftime like maybe no one else in the country.

What we got for the first 10 minutes of the second half was the game that perhaps everyone expected between two of the three best teams in the Big East coming in with rankings next to their names. Creighton pushed the lead to four, Marquette answered to take their first lead of the game, 42-41, on a layup from Kolek, etc., back and forth, you get the idea. Creighton’s Francisco Farabello canned a triple with 10:15 left in the game to put the Jays up 48-46.... and that’s when Sean Jones went to work.

Hey, remember when I said that he was struggling to shoot the ball all season? Yeah. The sophomore from Ohio made back-to-back triples for the Golden Eagles, ramrodding the lead to four, 52-48, then he drew a foul and sank his throws to make it 56-51.... and then converted a layup, 58-51, 5:59 to play. Going back to a bucket he scored with 12:18 to go, that’s a 16-8 Marquette run with Jones throwing in 12. Just from his threes onwards, that’s a 12-3 run, with Jones getting 10 and Kam Jones contributing the other two.

Creighton would not lead again.

David Joplin scored eight straight for Marquette, including a thunderous dunk capped by a high five with Jae Crowder sitting courtside, Golden Eagles by seven, 66-59, that is your dagger, 38 seconds to go.

The offense igniting is why Marquette was able to win, but the defense is why the offense was able to ignite. Ultimately, Creighton coughed up the ball 18 times in this game, with Marquette scoring 24 points on those ensuing possessions. Marquette locked the Bluejays down when it mattered the most, making them go nearly two minutes without a field goal down the stretch. It was 61-59 Marquette when Ryan Kalkbrenner scored with 2:47 to play..... but just 66-61 when Farabello scored with 33 seconds left. Mathematically, Marquette did need freebies from Kolek to ice the game away, but the emotional damage was already done to the Bluejays, and there’s no way that the 2023 Big East Player of the Year wasn’t coming through when his team needed him.

Those late freebies for Tyler Kolek allowed him to tie Sean Jones for the team high in points in this one, although it is a career best for Jones, so he wins the tiebreaker. Oso Ighodaro was a terror on the glass, ripping down 16 rebounds and holding Ryan Kalkbrenner to just three. Kolek added eight assists to boost his season average, and he and Chase Ross generated three of CU’s 18 turnovers by way of steals.

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

Up Next: Marquette gets a week off from game action before getting back after it. Their next game is next week Saturday, and they’ll be out on the road against Seton Hall. Tipoff on CBS Sports Network for that game is scheduled for 11am Central time. The Pirates have been inactive since a 20 point road loss against Xavier on December 23rd, and they will travel to Providence on Wednesday night before hosting the Golden Eagles at the Prudential Center.