NEW YORK – Outside, the façade of Madison Square Garden and the top of the Empire State Building were lit in blue and gold.
Inside the world’s most famous arena, confetti fell in a scene soundtracked by Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and many prominent faces were soaking up the latest chapter in Marquette basketball’s storied, century-plus history.
was the fearless point guardNourish more hardware and wrapped in the arms of the family and coaches who have pushed him from an overlooked recruit to the best player One of the best conferences in college basketball,
Among those climbing ladders to snip the nets were support staff and players who have been around through a regime change To find out how far the event has come to celebrate the Big East Tournament title To go with a regular regular-season crown First for both schools.
Off the court not long after Saturday’s 65-51 win over Xavier, one of the most iconic players in MU history claimed this Golden Eagles team compares favorably For the warriors who faltered through the late 1960s and 1970s Under the direction of consummate New York showman Al McGuire.
box scoreMarquette 65, Xavier 51
The connective tissue for all that cuts, embraces, and weaves the distinct MU DNA around the court and many media requests with all the questions bound to be variations of the same theme: The head coach has taught this team this good , How did you get it so quickly?
Tyler Kolek, Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Tyler Kolek, Point Guard who transferred from George Mason in April 2021 Barely a stir in the college basketball landscape, he accepted the trophy for Most Outstanding Player for the tournament after scoring 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and countless amounts of grit in the title game.
He then immediately went to his family and was wrapped in tearful embraces including His hoops-obsessed father who was Little East player of the year A few decades earlier his son had earned the same honor in the Big East. there was his mother, his brother, his high school coach and AAU coach who has worked to help Kolek reach this level.
Kolek said, “All the moments that have happened to me have led up to this moment here.” “To share this with my high school coach, my brother, my dad, my two best friends, it’s special. There’s no better feeling.
The Golden Eagles (28-6) take their emotional cues from the brash guard. MU has had one of the most efficient offenses in the nation — ranked in the top 10 for several months in a row according to college basketball statistical website KenPom.com — and now its defense is rising to the occasion.
Against the Musketeers, MU pulled off a wire-to-wire win, thanks to a troubled defensive run that held the explosive Musketeers to their lowest points of the season. The third-best three-point shooting team in the nation managed just 5-for-20 shooting from beyond the arc.
MU’s Oso Ighodaro said, “I’ve seen it since the day he arrived on campus.” “He works so hard. He’s so competitive.
“Last year, a lot of people were under him, No one in this room was below him. We know who he is and it’s good that people are finally waking up to who he is.
Oso Ighodaro, Kam Jones, Todd Smith Express Confidence In Shaka Smart
Ighodaro has looked the other way. He was the freshman in the 2020-21 season in which matches were mostly played in empty arenas. he got hurt after showing off your talentand the team fought so hard that The school parted ways with head coach Steve Wojciechowski.
“It’s great,” Ighodaro said. “I have been saying this for the last few days. I’m with my best friends playing the game I love. So it’s been great.
“Just trying to take in every moment. The fun of winning. That’s why we want to keep it going.”
Kam Jones scored 11 points against Xavier and joined competitive friend and roommate David Joplin Big East All-Tournament Team.
Jones was originally committed to Wojciechowski, But it stuck when Shaka Smart was hired.
“Means everything,” Jones said. “We created history. It can never be taken away from us. I committed under Coach Wojciechowski.
“I can’t imagine getting any better than right here with this man. Grateful for him and all that he has done for me. I am forever grateful to him.
As Jones said that, he put his arms around head coach Shaka Smart. Who has led this remarkable transformation in two seasons. The coach was wearing a Big East Championship hat.
The last time the Golden Eagles won the Big East was in 2013, when they shared the regular season title. Todd Smith, the school’s assistant athletics director of applied sports science and performance, is one of a handful of support staffers who were around at the time.
Smith said, ‘This is really special. “Last time we did it was at the Garden. Last game of the season against St. John’s.
“That was for a part of it. So it’s even more special. The fact that we outright won the tournament as well. That’s big time. I have no words. Enjoy it. It’s special.” These players are connected and that means everything.
The main connector is smart. Smith has been at MU for 16 years and worked for a number of coaches, but he is amazed by the work Smart has done.
Smith said, ‘He is special. “He’s a connector. He brings people together. I remember texting him right after we won the regular season outright. I was like ‘Thank you for bringing us all together.’
“Because it is what it is. All the right people are in the right places and everyone’s doing their job and working together.”
Bo Ellis says this Marquette team reminds him of the ones Al McGuire played for
a marquette legend Saw the festivities in the Garden and felt nostalgic.
Bo Ellis, A star on the 1977 NCAA title team Who is respected by almost everyone attending MU, shook his head.
Ellis said, “I think the future can be just as bright for this team as it was when I was in school.” “And I think they set out to do something that hasn’t been done since I was in school and I’m looking forward to it and that’s why I’m here to support it.”
The unselfishness and swagger of the Golden Eagles was reminiscent of teams that Al McGuire had coached in the recent past.
“They play together and they play defense,” Ellis said. “Reminds me of Al McGuire days when I used to play.
“We used to go after them. I like to say they’ve got some dogs. But the future is good. They are in good hands. I’m looking forward and I’m excited. I’ve been around Marquette for a long time, athletic ambassadors, I’m more excited about this group than I’ve ever been in my life.
shaka smart made it all work
The biggest reason Marquette is excited about basketball is smart, Big East Coach of the Year and favorite for the National Award.
“Fit” is a word often used when describing Smart and MU, and the head coach defined that on Saturday night.
“I mean, the players are fit,” Smart said. “The best coaches in college basketball get a lot of attention for coaches, for better or for worse. The best coaches have one thing in common, they have a captive audience. People are locked in, and people are determined to execute the plan. Let’s try.
“This group here has been incredible in terms of willingness to not only follow our coaching staff’s plan, but follow each other’s guidance. I mean, the best thing these guys do is the way They lead each other, along the way they make each other better.
“So that’s why it’s been a good fit. Marquette has a special place. It cares deeply about basketball, and we’re happy to share this championship with everyone in Milwaukee because it’s a proud, It is an emotional program.
The players and coaches still have work to do. The Golden Eagles have not won an NCAA tournament game since 2013. They will find out their opponent in the first round on Sunday.
but before they grab their post-game dinner and celebratory milkshakes, Smart reflected on what this team has accomplished.
“Being here in New York is doubly good,” said Smart. “Being at the Garden, I mean, it’s the best. I remember the first time I came here as an assistant coach and walking around like a kid in a museum.
“I am a history man, so thinking about all the great players who have played here, all the great moments that have been here. And I think for these people, there’s nothing quite like doing something together in a special place and then having it in your pocket, to get that experience.
“So it’s an awesome group, and we just want to keep building.”
Our customers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal,
DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and more
This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Marquette defeats Xavier 65-51 in Big East Tournament final