Early hand injury to Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek? Didn’t matter.
6-for-12 three-point shooting from Vermont in the first half? Didn’t matter.
First half foul trouble for both Kolek and Kam Jones? Didn’t matter.
Why didn’t it matter? Well, because Marquette men’s basketball scored 1.26 points per possession in the first half and 1.32 per trip for the game as a whole on their way to 78 points and a 17 point victory over Vermont. Oh, did I not say? This was in the first round of the 2023 NCAA tournament. This was Marquette’s first NCAA tournament victory since defeating Miami in the 2013 Sweet 16. Oh, and it was head coach Shaka Smart’s first NCAA tournament victory since 2013 as well, as his VCU Rams beat Akron 88-42 in the first round that year.
Kind of a big deal all around, and in Year 2 of the Smart era in Milwaukee, to boot.
Marquette was cruising on offense in the first half, even with Tyler Kolek playing with a wrapped up thumb, even with Kam Jones sidelined with two early-ish fouls. Lots of guys made big contributions along the way there, but it was 39-30 after 20 minutes because Vermont kept hitting shots. Good shots, shots that you would expect a team that shoots 36% from long range to hit, all credit where due to them. But Marquette just wasn’t quite getting it in gear even though they were up nine.
And then Kam Jones said “yeah, we’re done here, I don’t want to goof off any more.”
The little homie from Memphis hit a three-pointer off a tapback pass from Oso Ighodaro with 14:19 left to go in the game. That put Marquette up eight after the Catamounts had closed to within five. That three was the first bucket in EIGHTEEN STRAIGHT POINTS FOR MARQUETTE BY JONES, all as part of an 18-6 run by the Golden Eagles, and actually it turned into a 21-6 run because Jones’ streak got broken by an and-1 bucket at the rim in transition by Olivier-Maxence Prosper.
66-46 Marquette, 9:13 to play. Game’s over.
MU’s lead would crest as high as 24 on a bucket by Ighodaro with 5:30 to play, and the closest it would get the rest of the way would be the 17 point margin that the game came to rest on at the final horn.
By the way, Vermont’s shooting? Marquette held them to just 39% shooting overall in the second half and just 15% from long range, 2-for-13. Part of what happened after halftime was Kam Jones going nuts, yes, 100% absolutely, but also Marquette adjusted to what the Catamounts were throwing at them on that end of the court and just started making it harder for them to get the looks that they liked.
Kam Jones was the game’s leading scorer, finishing with 19 points, and yes, that means he only had one point in the first half, and yes, he did not score again after his 18 point run. It’s fine. Oso Ighodaro (14), David Joplin (12), Olivier-Maxence Prosper (11), and Stevie Mitchell (10) all got into double digits for points, while Mitchell (!!) led the team in rebounds with seven. Ighodaro had five assists to lead the team there.
Up Next: Michigan State.
The Spartans knocked off USC, 73-62, earlier in the day on Friday to advance to the second round themselves. They’re the #7 seed in the region after going 19-12 before the tournament started, and KenPom has already posted the projection for the game: Marquette has a 61% chance of victory, with a score of 73-70.