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Oso Ighodaro scores 21 as No. 7 Marquette outlasts huge underdog St. Thomas 84-79

St Thomas Marquette Basketball
Posted at 9:35 AM, Dec 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-15 10:35:11-05

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Marquette coach Shaka Smart reminded his team before its game against unheralded St. Thomas (Minnesota) about the unusual results involving AP Top 25 teams a night earlier.

His seventh-ranked Golden Eagles barely avoided becoming the latest upset victim.

Oso Ighodaro scored 21 points, Tyler Kolek had 12 points and 10 assists, and Marquette hung on to beat St. Thomas 84-79 on Thursday night in the Golden Eagles’ final game before opening Big East competition.

The Golden Eagles, who were 25 1/2-point favorites according to FanDuel Sportsbook, led by one point with three minutes left, and the Tommies (6-5) kept it competitive until the final seconds.

“We'd seen all the teams around the world, around the country losing games like this,” said Marquette's David Joplin, who scored 10 points. "Our connectivity showed.”

One night after UNLV upset No. 8 Creighton and Chicago State shocked No. 25 Northwestern, Marquette (9-2) got all it could handle from a Summit League program in its third season in Division I.

“We actually showed our guys (Northwestern coach) Chris Collins' comments about his team not being quite as connected last night,” Smart said. “Anyone can beat anyone.”

St. Thomas guard Dom Martinelli's brother, Nick, plays for Northwestern. The Tommies had beaten Chicago State 66-50 on Sunday.

Kolek went 6 of 6 on free throws over the final 1:03 to seal the victory for the Golden Eagles.

“It's not the outcome that we wanted,” said Drake Dobbs, who led St. Thomas with 14 points. “I think maybe we were the only guys — just our locker room — we're the only ones who believed we could win. It's a tough loss, but it shows we can play with anyone.”

Smart said he had warned his players about St. Thomas' potential following Marquette's 78-59 blowout of Notre Dame.

“I told the guys after we got done playing our last game, I said, ‘Guys, I know this is a brain bender, but the next opponent is a lot better than the team we just played,’” Smart said. “And that was obvious tonight.”

Kendall Blue scored 13, Ben Nau 12, Carter Bjerke 11 and Parker Bjorklund 10 for St. Thomas. Kam Jones had 13 points and Chase Ross 11 for Marquette.

Marquette led by as many as 13 early in the second half and had a 73-64 advantage with four minutes left when St. Thomas went on a burst.

After Nau hit a 3-pointer with 3:54 remaining, Ighodaro pushed Bjorklund's neck as they fought for position on the ensuing inbounds pass. Ighodaro was called for a flagrant-1 foul, giving St. Thomas two free throws and possession.

Bjorklund hit both free throws and then sank a 3-pointer to make it 73-72 with 3:40 remaining. Ighodaro made two free throws on Marquette’s next possession, but Bjorklund hit a layup to make it 75-74 with 3:01 left.

Ross sank a 3-pointer with 2:41 remaining to give Marquette some breathing room. Dobbs’ jumper cut the lead to 78-76 with 1:20 left, but Kolek's free throws helped Marquette stay in front the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

St. Thomas: The Tommies' shooting made this one interesting. St. Thomas shot 13 of 34 (38.2%) on 3s. Because Marquette had to worry about St. Thomas' ability from distance, the Tommies went 16 of 21 from inside the arc.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles' lethargic performance shouldn't have come as much of a surprise since they're going through final exams this week, but the defending Big East champions will have to perform much better as they enter conference play.

MISSING MITCHELL

Marquette played a second straight game without guard Stevie Mitchell, who has a hamstring injury. Smart was unsure about whether Mitchell would be ready for the start of Big East play.

“It's one of those injuries that you can’t really tough your way through it,” Smart said. “If it was, he would have played already because he's as tough as they come.”

UP NEXT

St. Thomas: Hosts Crown (Minnesota) College on Sunday.

Marquette: Opens its Big East schedule at Providence on Tuesday.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball