Tyler Kolek's heroics sinks St. John's basketball upset bid against No. 7 Marquette

A second half collapse doomed the St. John's basketball team on the road against Marquette.
Feb 10, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA;  Marquette Golden Eagles guard Tyler Kolek (11) drives for
Feb 10, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles guard Tyler Kolek (11) drives for / Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It couldn't have started better for the St. John's basketball team.

The Johnnies built a 15-point lead on the road against No. 7 Marquette, 45-30, with 2:33 left before halftime. The 3-pointers were dropping and the offense was flowing.

Then, it all came tumbling down, as it typically does based on the track record of the program. It wasn't by an avalanche but it was a death by every touch from the reigning Big East Player of the Year, Tyler Kolek.

He picked up two assists immediately after the Red Storm built its largest lead, but the most impactful blow came on his 3-pointer to end the first half, and after how well St. John's played, it only led by nine, 47-38, at halftime.

Kolek hit a 3-pointer to begin the second half and Marquette was back within six, 47-41.

However, St. John's never went away. They kept fighting and battling but never had an answer for Kolek in the 86-75 loss.

His jumper with 5:58 left in the second half put Marquette up for good, 71-69.

"Disappointment would be too little of a word," Rick Pitino said following the game.

Kolek finished with 27 points -- 22 in the second half -- on 11-of-17 shooting, making 5-of-8 3-pointers, and adding 13 assists and seven rebounds. It wasn't only a Big East Player of the Year performance, but a National Player of the Year performance.

"This is one of the best games that Tyler Kolek has ever played at Marquette," Golden Eagles head coach Shaka Smart explained.

The reason was very similar to what Pitino has been echoing all season about the team's lack of attention to scouting reports, "we didn't pay attention to their personnel."

Marquette (18-5, 9-3 Big East) shot 55.9-percent in the game and 51.9-percent (14-of-27) from 3-point range. It's numbers were even more impressive in the second half, which Pitino called "an abysmal performance defensively."

A layup from Nahiem Alleyne would have tied the game with 3:25 left but the UConn transfer missed it uncontested. Kolek's layup on the following possession extended the lead for Marquette as the largest crowd in the history of Golden Eagle athletics, 18,095, went home happy.

Daniss Jenkins did everything in his power to try and keep St. John's in the game but ultimately came up short with 22 points, six rebounds, and six assists while Joel Soriano was a non-factor for the Red Storm, finishing with two points and five rebounds in just 17 minutes.

St. John's (14-10, 6-7 Big East), losers in six of its last eight games, has a brutal turnaround, traveling to Rhode Island to take on Providence on Tuesday night (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).