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Kolek sparks 2nd-half rally as No. 7 Marquette beats St. John's 86-75 for 7th straight win

Texas Marquette Basketball
Posted at 12:49 PM, Feb 12, 2024

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Everything he saw from his players midway through Saturday's game made Marquette coach Shaka Smart believe his team would bounce back from a sluggish first-half performance.

His faith was soon rewarded.

Tyler Kolek scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half and also had 13 assists as No. 7 Marquette rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat St. John's 86-75 for its seventh consecutive victory.

"You could see from the look on the guys' face at halftime," Smart said. "We knew we needed to be tougher. We knew we needed to be stronger — and more desperate."

Nobody was tougher than Kolek.

The reigning Big East player of the year put Marquette ahead for good with a basket that broke a 69-all tie with 5:58 remaining. Kolek proceeded to score or assist on Marquette's last five baskets as the Golden Eagles put the game away.

"When I'm playing the game, I kind of just take what they give me, sometimes to my fault," Kolek said. "But in the first half, they were playing zone, it wasn't really like I was coming off a lot of screens. I didn't really have the ball much. We were trying to move it around and get it in the middle of the zone. So I didn't really have many opportunities. ... We come out and we bang two 3s (early in the second half). They have to come out of the zone, start going man."

Kolek took over from there. During the second half, he shot 9 of 13 overall and 4 of 6 from 3-point range while also dishing out seven assists.

"This is one of Tyler Kolek's best games that he's ever played at Marquette," Smart said.

Stevie Mitchell added 14 points, David Joplin had 12 and Kam Jones 10 to help Marquette (18-5, 9-3 Big East) beat St. John's for a sixth straight time.

Daniss Jenkins had 22 points, six rebounds and six assists for St. John's (14-10, 6-7). Joel Soriano, who entered averaging a team-high 15.9 points per game, scored just two and played only 17 minutes while struggling with foul trouble.

St. John's led 45-30 with 2:30 left in the first half and took a 47-38 edge into the break after shooting 8 of 18 from 3-point range and owning a 17-0 advantage in second-chance points over the first 20 minutes.

But the Red Storm couldn't maintain that momentum as St. John's coach Rick Pitino called the second half "just an abysmal performance defensively." Marquette ended up shooting 55.9% overall and 14 of 27 from 3-point range for the game.

"We're improving offensively, but defensively we still have the same problems," Pitino said. "It is what it is. It's the first year. We're building a program, and you've got to build a program on defense."

St. John's still had a chance down the stretch.

The Red Storm trailed 75-73 when Nahiem Alleyne, who scored 12 points, missed a layup that would have tied it with 3:25 left. Marquette outscored St. John's 11-2 the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

St. John's: The Red Storm desperately need a signature win to boost their postseason profile as they seek their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2019. This is a game they might look back on with regret next month.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles won in part because they were much more competitive on the glass in the second half. They allowed only three second-chance points after halftime. After getting outrebounded 23-12 in the first half, they had a 21-12 edge over the final 20 minutes.

"Our guys looked at each other and made an eyeball contract," Smart said. "They said, 'We're not going to go down by somebody bullying us,' and they stepped forward."

UP NEXT

St. John's: Plays at Providence on Tuesday.

Marquette: Plays at Butler on Tuesday.