Marquette men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart was visibly agitated by some Kansas trash talk and was seen charging up the sideline, giving the impression of being ready for a confrontation.
However, his composed players remained in complete control throughout the game against the No. 1 team in the country.
Oso Ighodaro delivered an outstanding performance with 21 points and nine rebounds, leading No. 4 Marquette to a dominant 73-59 victory over the top-ranked Jayhawks in the Maui Invitational semifinals on Tuesday.
With former Marquette great Dwyane Wade present in the front row, the highly-anticipated early-season showdown between national title contenders turned out to be one-sided. The Golden Eagles (5-0) held the lead for almost the entire game, establishing a 17-point advantage with about seven minutes remaining.
Marquette is now set to face No. 2 Purdue for the tournament championship on Wednesday (5 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Golden Eagles will become the first team since Loyola Chicago in 1972 to play against the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the AP Top 25 on consecutive days, and the tenth overall. The Ramblers are the only team to win both games, achieving this feat in the 1963 NCAA tournament by defeating No. 2 Duke on March 22 and No. 1 Cincinnati on March 23.
Tensions flared in the first half after Kansas swingman Kevin McCullar Jr. made a 3-pointer in front of Marquette’s bench, which led to a heated exchange between both teams, resulting in technical fouls.
Despite the altercation, Marquette’s players maintained their composure, focusing on the game. Oso Ighodaro shot 9-of-15 from the field, scoring 14 points in the second half. Chase Ross contributed 12 points and six rebounds, and Kam Jones scored 10.
“We felt like, as a team, that this was a game that we had some advantages in, but we felt like it was really, really important to press those advantages by being connected, helping each other, having a level of resolve even when things don’t go our way,” Smart said. “I thought our guys started the game with really, really good energy. Both teams were scoring, but then after about the first six to eight minutes, I thought we settled in defensively and that was the difference in the game.”
Marquette’s impressive performance resulted in a 46-26 lead in points scored in the paint and converting 18 forced turnovers into 20 points. Tyler Kolek’s five steals and Stevie Mitchell’s four contributed to this solid defensive performance.
Marquette’s victory marks their first win against a top-ranked team since beating Villanova 74-72 at home in January 2017.
“I thought Marquette played great. I thought they were so quick,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We got behind and played catchup the whole game, but I actually thought we played better than the score. We missed a lot of free throws and botched as many opportunities as we did, and a lot of times botched opportunities lead to points on the other end. But they were definitely the much better team tonight.”
Kansas will aim to recover when they face No. 7 Tennessee in the third-place game on Wednesday (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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