Tyler Kolek was quick to write off the underwhelming projections shortly after Marquette was picked ninth in the Big East coaches’ poll.
The sophomore guard claimed that “preseason stuff doesn’t really mean much,” and with each passing day, the No. 14 Golden Eagles seem to be proving his point.
Finishing within the upper half of the conference likely isn’t a concern for Marquette, which instead will look to continue trending toward top-10 status in the nation when it welcomes Butler to Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon.
The Golden Eagles (18-5, 10-2 Big East) have shattered expectations and currently sit atop the league alongside No. 16 Xavier, which plays host to St. John’s later Saturday. Marquette enters the meeting with the Bulldogs (11-12, 3-9) having won four straight games and nine of its last 10, most recently downing Villanova 73-64 on Wednesday.
The catalyst in the Golden Eagles’ victory over the Wildcats was none other than the player who believed in his team all along. Kolek recorded a team-high 20 points to go along with six assists and five rebounds. Kam Jones chipped in 18 points and Oso Ighodaro finished with 10.
With Wednesday’s win, Marquette is now 12-1 at home — and Fiserv Forum won’t be any easier to play in come Saturday.
Butler arrives on National Marquette Day, an annual holiday of sorts for current students and alumni to celebrate all things related to the school.
“I’m excited for Saturday,” Kolek said. “Last year it was a frenzy in here on National Marquette Day, so I’m hoping for the same thing.”
The Bulldogs are looking to notch their first win on the road since Jan. 1. Butler is also riding a four-game losing streak and has lost six of its last seven after dropping a 70-49 decision to Seton Hall last Saturday.
Simas Lukosius and Jalen Thomas were the only Bulldogs to score in double figures, notching 11 and 10 points, respectively. Butler only scored 18 points in the first half and was not able to recover from its slow start.
It has been a tale of two seasons for the Bulldogs, who won eight of their first 11 games before averaging just 59.8 points over their last 12. Butler coach Thad Matta realizes his team is running out of time to turn things around.
“We did some things (last Saturday) I hadn’t seen us do, in terms of plays that we didn’t make,” Matta said. “Somehow, some way we’ve got to get this thing going in the right direction. … Competing harder, playing smarter, playing tougher, playing with more energy, playing more connected.”
The Bulldogs’ leading scorer is Manny Bates, who averages 12.0 points per game but has struggled since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for three games. He has scored a total of 12 points over the last two contests, making 4 of 10 shots from the field.
Bates routinely played around 25-35 minutes per game prior to his injury, however he was on the floor for just 19 against Providence on Jan. 25 and 21 versus the Pirates. He’ll be looking to continue ramping up his playing time against the Golden Eagles, who have won six of the last eight meetings with Butler.
–Field Level Media