Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Marquette Golden Eagles: A Thrilling Game with a Surprising Outcome

Marquette Golden Eagles

The Marquette Golden Eagles pulled off a stunning upset over the No. 23 Illinois Fighting Illini on Tuesday night, winning 71-64 at the State Farm Center. The Golden Eagles trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half but rallied behind a stellar performance from sophomore guard Tyler Kolek, who scored 24 points and hit four clutch free throws in the final minute. Kolek also added six rebounds and four assists, while freshman guard Kam Jones chipped in 15 points and five rebounds.

Illinois, which was playing without star center Kofi Cockburn, who was serving the last game of his three-game suspension, struggled to find its rhythm on offense and committed 26 turnovers. The Fighting Illini were led by junior forward Terrence Shannon Jr., who had 21 points and two steals, and senior forward Marcus Domask, who had 18 points and six rebounds. However, Illinois shot only 37.5% from the field and 25% from the three-point line, while Marquette shot 46.9% and 38.1%, respectively.

The game was a back-and-forth affair in the first half, with both teams exchanging leads and runs. Illinois led 33-32 at halftime, thanks to a late three-pointer by freshman guard Luke Goode, who finished with 13 points. In the second half, Illinois seemed to take control of the game, going on a 14-4 run to open up a 47-35 lead with 14:25 left. However, Marquette did not give up and responded with a 17-4 run of its own, capped by a three-pointer by freshman forward David Joplin, who had nine points and three rebounds, to tie the game at 51-51 with 8:40 remaining.

From there, the game was a nail-biter, with neither team able to pull away. Illinois regained the lead at 60-57 with 3:45 left, after a jumper by Shannon Jr. and a free throw by sophomore forward Coleman Hawkins, who had five points, six rebounds, and three assists. However, Marquette answered with a 7-0 run, sparked by a three-pointer by sophomore forward Oso Ighodaro, who had 13 points, eight rebounds, and a block, and a layup by Kolek, to take a 64-60 lead with 1:28 left. Illinois cut the deficit to two points, after a layup by Shannon Jr. and a steal by Domask, but Kolek sealed the game with four consecutive free throws in the final 22 seconds.

Marquette Golden Eagles

Marquette Coach Shaka Smart Praises His Team’s Resilience

Marquette coach Shaka Smart, who was facing his former assistant and Illinois coach Brad Underwood for the first time, praised his team’s resilience and toughness in the post-game press conference. He said that his team showed a lot of character and heart in overcoming a hostile environment and a double-digit deficit. He also credited his team’s defense, which forced Illinois into 26 turnovers and held them to 64 points, well below their season average of 82 points.

Smart said that he was especially proud of Kolek, who he called a “winner” and a “leader”. He said that Kolek played with a lot of confidence and poise, and made big plays down the stretch. He also commended Jones, who he said was fearless and aggressive, and Ighodaro, who he said was versatile and impactful. He said that his team had a lot of room for improvement, but he was happy with the way they competed and executed.

Illinois Coach Brad Underwood Laments His Team’s Mistakes

Illinois coach Brad Underwood, on the other hand, was disappointed and frustrated with his team’s performance. He said that his team played “soft” and “careless”, and did not respect the game or the opponent. He said that his team gave away the game with their turnovers and poor shot selection, and did not play with enough urgency or intensity. He said that his team lacked leadership and chemistry, and did not communicate well on the court.

Underwood said that he was not making any excuses for his team’s loss and that he did not want to take anything away from Marquette, who he said played hard and smart. He said that his team had to learn from their mistakes and get better and that he had to do a better job of coaching and preparing his team. He said that he was looking forward to getting Cockburn back, who he said was a “difference-maker” and a “game-changer”, but he also said that his team had to play better as a whole, and not rely on one player.

What’s Next for Both Teams?

The win improved Marquette’s record to 3-0 and gave them a signature victory in their non-conference schedule. The Golden Eagles will look to keep their momentum going, as they face another tough test on Friday when they host the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes at the Fiserv Forum. The game will be televised on FS1 at 9:00 PM ET.

The loss dropped Illinois’ record to 2-1 and snapped their 26-game home winning streak, which was the longest in the nation. The Fighting Illini will try to bounce back, as they face another ranked opponent on Monday when they travel to Kansas City to take on the No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats in the Hall of Fame Classic. The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 9:30 PM ET.

By Kane Wilson

Kane Wilson, founder of this news website, is a seasoned news editor renowned for his analytical skills and meticulous approach to storytelling. His journey in journalism began as a local reporter, and he quickly climbed the ranks due to his talent for unearthing compelling stories. Kane completed his Master’s degree in Media Studies from Northwestern University and spent several years in broadcast journalism prior to co-founding this platform. His dedication to delivering unbiased news and ability to present complex issues in an easily digestible format make him an influential voice in the industry.

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