With both the Illinois and Marquette basketball teams coming into the game in the top 25 college basketball rankings, Tuesday night’s game provided a great opportunity for both teams to get a resume-boosting win. In front of a raucous crowd, Marquette was able to make enough plays down the stretch to hold off Illinois and capture a big road win.
Coming into this Marquette vs Illinois matchup with an ankle injury, senior guard Tyler Kolek made a massive impact, scoring 24 points along with six boards and four assists. With their 71-64 win, Marquette basketball improves to 3-0 and has shown they deserve their spot in the top five. With almost a week off until their matchup with UCLA in the Maui Invitational, Marquette should be able to make a real run at winning the pre-season tournament.
Marquette Basketball Holds Off Illinois On The Road
Tyler Kolek Leads the Way
There is a reason Tyler Kolek was a popular pick for this year’s All-American first team, and he put it on display Tuesday night. Coming into the game on a bad ankle, Kolek was efficient from the field and ran the offense beautifully all game. He was able to direct the offense to get open looks and was also a pest on the defensive end.
It has become abundantly clear how dangerous the Marquette basketball team is with him running the show. As long as Kolek is on the court, Marquette has a chance to beat anyone in the nation. Even on nights like Tuesday, where the shots weren’t falling, the Golden Eagles are a tough team to beat with him at the helm.
Free Throws Issues Continue
Last season, one of the biggest weak spots for Marquette was their inability to hit free throws consistently. The biggest reason for most of their losses was due to free throw shooting. Although it didn’t come back to bite them against Illinois, shooting 60% from the stripe is not going to cut it if they want to make noise in the postseason.
While it is certainly early to be talking about March Madness play, this isn’t a new issue or just concerning one player. Oso Ighodaro was 3/7 from the line and Kam Jones was 1/3 as well. In close games, free throws are often the difference maker. If Marquette can’t fix their free throw issues by the time conference play starts, they may run into more trouble than they should.