COLUMBUS, Ohio – There will be new banners honoring the 2022-23 Marquette men’s basketball team in the rafters of Fiserv Forum.
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There will also be a nagging feeling inside every person in the Golden Eagles’ program that there could have been more accomplishments.
One of the most successful seasons in the century-plus basketball history of MU came to an end with a gut-wrenching 69-60 loss to seventh-seeded Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 on Sunday at Nationwide Arena.
BOX SCORE: Michigan State 69, Marquette 60.
The second-seeded Golden Eagles (29-7) rolled into March Madness on an incredible hot streak.
They had won the outright Big East regular-season title for the first time. They earned their highest ranking in the Associated Press top 25 since the 1977-78 season. Then they won three games in three days at Madison Square Garden to hoist their first Big East tournament trophy.
On Friday, they earned a victory in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. That was their 10th consecutive win.
But none of that was a solace after MU’s offense coughed up 16 turnovers – 11 in the second half – and the Golden Eagles had to watch the Spartans celebrate their advancement to the Sweet 16.
“It’s really disappointing right now,” MU’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper said. “Everything we accomplished this season and to go out like this and to be part of something so special with these guys, it’s definitely going to hurt for the next couple of days and maybe longer.
“But it hurts now. And we’re going to see how we feel later.”.
Tom Izzo’s hard-nosed defense disrupted Tyler Kolek
The Golden Eagles fell into a 13-point deficit in the first half when they couldn’t get any good looks against Michigan State’s defense orchestrated by hall of fame coach Tom Izzo.
“We’re normally very good finishing when we get in the paint,” MU head coach Shaka Smart said. “Michigan State did a really good job of help defense. They did a great job with their hands.
“We’re going to look back at that tape, and there’s a lot of plays we’d like to have had back. I thought we got bottled up a little too much on the side. When we were in the middle of the floor, we had a little bit more success. But Coach Izzo and his team deserve all the credit in the world for the aggressiveness with which they played.”.
The Golden Eagles took the lead back immediately in the second half on back-to-back three-pointers. But they fell into a funk in which they committed eight turnovers over an eight-minute stretch and the Spartans took the lead for good at 44-42 with 8 minutes 52 seconds left.
“It felt like we never got into a rhythm,” MU point guard Tyler Kolek said. “We turned the ball over a lot – 16 turnovers, that’s unlike us.
“If you turn the ball over, you’re not going to get a shot up because it’s going the other way. So I just thought they took us out of our rhythm, like Coach said. They were more aggressive than we were.”.
Kolek, the Big East player of the year and a consensus All-American, had six miscues to tie a season high from a double-overtime loss at Providence in December.
He played with tape on his right thumb after it got caught in a player’s jersey and was bent backward in Friday’s victory over Vermont.
“It wasn’t an issue at all,” Kolek said. “There’s no excuses for those (turnovers). Just trying to be out there for my team and command the game. And I didn’t do that today.”.
Smart came to his point guard’s defense.
“We’re not even in this position if it’s not for Tyler,” Smart said. “He’s been phenomenal all year. He’s been a great leader.
“Beyond any of the statistics, beyond being Big East player of the year, he’s a winner. The guy that sets the standard every day the way he conducts himself, the way he is as a teammate.
“Today does not define him. This game does not define him. But as big boys we have to accept the fact that in the NCAA Tournament one game like this can knock you out as a team.”.
Spartans’ Tyson Walker, A.J. Hoggard, Joey Hauser make clutch plays
The Golden Eagles will lament some missed chances.
Michigan State took a 52-45 lead with 6:33 remaining on two free throws from Tyson Walker.
Oso Ighodaro scored six straight points, but missed a free throw that would have tied the game for MU.
Michigan State’s Joey Hauser, who played his freshman season with the Golden Eagles before transferring, immediately responded with a three-pointer.
The Golden Eagles had another chance to tie the game at 56-56, but Prosper missed a free throw.
The Spartans sealed the victory with tough layups by Walker and A.J. Hoggard and then a pullup from Walker that made it 62-55 with 1:16 remaining.
“We were going to keep the ball in the middle of the court because they did a great job of trapping us and we got it off to the middle,” Izzo said. “So we kept it in that middle third, and A.J. And Tyson did a phenomenal job.
“Joey hitting that big three. We did some good things. We made some mistakes. I’m sure they made some. But it was a great game for us. Probably not as much for Shaka. But class guy that’s done it the right way. And those kids are young. He’s going to be a team to be reckoned with in the near future.”.
Future is bright for the Golden Eagles
MU made a lot of believers this season.
The Golden Eagles were picked to finish ninth in the Big East by league coaches in October. But they went 17-3 in the conference, the most victories in league history. MU’s 29 overall wins also were the most in program history.
The team’s fast-paced offense and the players’ joyful style ignited the passion of a fan base whose enthusiasm had been sapped by the NCAA Tournament victory drought.
The whole MU roster can return, though at least one player needs to leave because with three incoming recruits the Golden Eagles are slated to be one scholarship over the NCAA limit of 13.
The Golden Eagles are likely to be ranked as one of the top teams in the country next preseason, so there will be a different kind of pressure.
But the trajectory is clear after a successful season under Smart.
“If you’ve not been through it as a player, it’s hard to have a full appreciation for what’s asked and required of these guys to be at a championship level from August until March,” Smart said. “So they need to get some rest, get some time away.
“And we’ve got several guys on our team that have some of the bumps and bruises and things that come up over the course of the season. So we have some guys that maybe need some extended time off the court.
“But then it’s about coming back together after that and remembering why you chose to do this in the first place. And then getting better. Our program’s about relationships. Our program’s about growth and our program’s about victory. And this group has done a phenomenal job honoring those things. Tonight’s result doesn’t take away from that one bit.”.