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Mar 23, 2024 1:45 pm

Colorado not ready for story to end against Marquette

tyler kolek

INDIANAPOLIS — No. 10 seed Colorado will try to continue its magical run Sunday when it meets second-seeded Marquette in a South Region second-round game.

The winner will advance to the Sweet 16 in Dallas next Friday.

The Buffaloes (26-10) have already won their first two tournament games for the first time since 1955 and have eclipsed their previous school record for wins by two.

In Friday’s 87-69 win over No. 15 Western Kentucky, Marquette (26-9) returned star guard Tyler Kolek after a six-game absence due to an oblique injury, and the results were immediate. Kolek drained 3-pointers on his first two shots on his way to 18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds.

Colorado defeated fellow No. 10 seed Boise State 60-53 in the First Four in Dayton on Wednesday before taking down No. 7 Florida 102-100 in an epic finish Friday.

KJ Simpson’s baseline jumper over Zyon Pullin bounced on the rim several times before falling through with 1.7 seconds left. Walter Clayton Jr.’s desperation heave from 70 feet caromed harmlessly off the backboard and Colorado advanced to the second round for the second time in four seasons under 14th-year coach Tad Boyle.

Simpson finished with a team-high 23 points while Eddie Lampkin Jr. added 21 points. Lampkin and Simpson have a close friendship that has grown in Lampkin’s first season in Colorado.

“I told Coach (Boyle) and KJ — me and KJ have had a relationship for the last two years, and I was telling him, ‘I’d love to play with you one day,'” Lampkin said. “At the beginning of the season I just told him that, and then when I got in the (NCAA transfer) portal, I hit up Coach, and he was like, ‘I’d love to have you.’ Now look where we’re at.”

Colorado is trying to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1969 when the tournament consisted of just 25 teams.

“I’m just so blessed to be in this position,” Lampkin added. “We’ve got to keep winning. We ain’t satisfied yet.”

“You get into this tournament, the deeper you get in, you’re going to be playing against better teams and better players,” Boyle said. “This team knows how to win in different ways, and we just proved that over the last two games.”

While Kolek was excellent in his return from injury, Kam Jones carried the Golden Eagles in the second half against Western Kentucky, finishing with a game-high 28 points. Defensive-minded guard Stevie Mitchell added 16 points.

“The first practice he came in, he came in and just did what he does,” Jones said of Kolek. “It was nothing unusual. He came back in, got the ball, made the plays he normally makes, and we just do what we do and we’re glad to have him and grateful to have him back.”

Marquette outscored WKU 51-26 in the second half after trailing by seven at the half.

“In the second half I think really to a man, our whole team ramped up our aggressiveness on the defensive end,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “Much, much more Marquette basketball, flying around, getting our hands on the basketball.

“So just grateful for the response. We talk about building championship habits. One of the most important of those is the way we respond to adversity, and the guys did a great job of that.”

–Mike Petraglia, Field Level Media

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