Breaking news, sports and campus news from Western Kentucky University

WKU mens basketball heads to Indianapolis for round of 64 match-up against Marquette

Adin Parks
WKU guard Christian Lander (4) competes for a rebound with NMSU guard Jaden Harris (13) in WKU’s Senior Night game in the Diddle Arena on Feb 17.

No. 15 WKU men’s basketball will hit the road to play the No. 2 Marquette Golden Eagles at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Friday to kick off their NCAA Tournament run.

After a conference championship win over UTEP, the Hilltoppers have danced their way into March Madness for the 24th time in school history.

This will not be the first time these two teams have met in the tournament. In 1976, the Hilltoppers faced the Warriors, now known as the Golden Eagles, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. WKU fell short of a victory in that game, losing 79-60.

The big story for the game is Marquette’s Tyler Kolek. The two-time Big East Player of the Year has missed the team’s last six games with an oblique muscle injury. In those six games, the Golden Eagles are 3-3 with wins against Xavier, Villanova, and Providence, but losses against Creighton and UConn twice.

According to Marquette Head Coach, Shaka Smart, Kolek should be expected to play. In an interview with CBS Sports Network, Smart said that Kolek would make a return with a painless Tuesday practice.

Kolek is one of many players to look out for on this star-studded roster. Throughout the season, Kolek has averaged 15.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 7.6 assists on nearly 50-40-90 shooting splits.

However, while it is difficult, it is possible to pump the brakes on Kolek’s unreal production. In a January game versus Seton Hall, Kolek was held to four points, two rebounds, and five turnovers. However, he was still credited for 11 assists in that game.

While the Rhode Island native has two of the conference’s most prestigious titles under his belt, he’s only the team’s second-highest scorer.

Marquette’s Kameron Jones is a man with a hot hand. The guard from Cordova, Tennessee averages 16.8 points on nearly 50% shooting from the field and 41.1% from three.

The point of emphasis for WKU is going to have to be an efficient tempo. The Hilltoppers sat at the top of the Adjusted Tempo rating for nearly the entire season, and are likely to slow down for their NCAA Tournament matchup.

Marquette comes into the game in 15th place in all of the tournament teams in AdjT. However, the Achilles heal for WKU is the level of efficiency that the Golden Eagles bring with their speed.

Marquette sits in 20th place in both Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and Adjusted Defensive Efficiency out of the 362 teams.

The key to success for the Hilltoppers is running through C-USA Tournament MVP, Don McHenry. The guard from Milwaukee, Wisconsin averaged 15.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in his 33 games for the Hilltoppers.

During the C-USA Tournament championship game, McHenry’s 25 points, five rebounds, and four steals propelled the Hilltoppers to their first C-USA title.

The game tips off at 1:00 pm CST and will be live on TBS.

More to Discover