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Mar 22, 2024 4:45 pm

Tyler Kolek sharp in return as No. 2 Marquette beats Western Kentucky

Marquette Golden Eagles

INDIANAPOLIS — Tyler Kolek returned from a three-week absence and fell just four rebounds shy of a triple-double to help South Region No. 2 seed Marquette pull away in the second half for a 87-69 win over No. 15 Western Kentucky on Friday.

Kolek, who finished with 18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, showed no ill effects from an oblique injury suffered in the second half of Marquette’s win over Providence on Feb. 28.

Kolek hit two long threes on his first two shot attempts of the game and scored 10 points in the opening seven minutes of the first half, helping Marquette (26-9) build an early 26-17 lead.

Marquette advances to the second round on Sunday in Indianapolis. The Golden Eagles will face either No. 7 seed Florida or No. 10 Colorado.

Kam Jones made five 3-pointers and poured in 28 points for Marquette. Stevie Mitchell added 16 points and David Joplin added 13 points and 11 rebounds.

There were a combined 14 turnovers in the opening 11 minutes, with Western Kentucky (22-12) committing nine. The Hilltoppers had 18 for the game.

Tyrone Marshall Jr. scored 17 of his team-leading 21 in the first half while Don McHenry was the only other Hilltopper in double figures with 11 point.

A slick cross-over dribble by McHenry led to an open jumper that he drained to give the Hilltoppers a 32-31 lead. The triple was part of a 9-0 run that put Western Kentucky up, 34-31.

Another 9-0 spurt capped WKU’s 24-5 run that gave them a 43-33 lead with 1:40 left in the half, thrilling the fans who made the 225-mile trek north from Bowling Green, Ky. to support the Hilltoppers.

Ben Gold’s driving layup with two seconds left in the half closed WKU’s lead to 43-36 at the break.

Khristian Lander’s trey just over a minute into the second half put WKU back up eight, 46-38.

But Marquette’s faithful finally got into the game in the second half as the Golden Eagles outscored the Hilltoppers, 15-2, over the next four minutes.

Marshall’s luck appeared to turn a bit in the second half as he mishandled a dunk attempt on a perfect alley-oop pass from McHenry that would’ve tied the game. Instead, David Joplin capped the ensuing possession on the fast break by drilling a corner three that put Marquette up, 53-48.

WKU made one more run to tie the game at 55 on McHenry’s three with 11:55 left. But back-to-back threes from Joplin and Jones highlighted a 23-10 spurt and put Marquette up, 78-65, with 4:22 remaining.

–Mike Petraglia, Field Level Media

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