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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Marquette proves too much for Kentucky

Whether you love him or hate him, respect him or burn effigies of him, no one can deny that former A&M coach Billy Gillespie is doing at Kentucky what he did at UTEP and A&M. After a slow start in the Bluegrass State, the Wildcats came on at the end of the year and earned an eleven seed to the tournament. Through all the expectations and potential though, the Wildcats and Gillespie were unable to defeat sixth seed Marquette, losing 74-66.
For Marquette this game was a chance to avenge two first round losses in the two previous years. For Gillespie and the Wildcats it was an opportunity to showcase the potential of the team and show the direction Kentucky was taking was positive after an all over the road season that included losses to Gardner Webb and a victory over Tennessee. The Marquette-Kentucky game is the most played series in tournament history. The two teams have met 10 times and the Golden Eagles hold a 6-4 series lead against the Wildcats.
In the end Marquette led by junior Jerel McNeal was victorious for the sixth time against the wildcats.
“We’ve grown so much just since my first year here,” said McNeal in an interview with ESPN. “We had spurts through those 40 minutes that weren’t always the best Marquette team that we could put out there, but the most important thing, we just stayed with it. Nobody dropped their heads.”
McNeal scored 20 points and led the Golden Eagles in steals. Marquette will live to play another day and try and make a name for themselves that doesn’t involve their last round of tournament success when Dwayne Wade was on the team. As for Kentucky, they will head back to Lexington to prepare for next year and what should be their 50th tournament appearance.
“It was a tough loss for us,” said Gillespie. “We came here intent on winning, like everybody else does.”
Gillespie will have to make adjustments for next year as he losses two powerful seniors in Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley. Crawford led the game with 35 points while Bradley contributed 19 points of his own. Of the Wildcats 66 points the two seniors tallied 54 of those points. The Wildcats do retain sophomore Derrick Jasper who led the game in steals, assists, and rebounds.
“You hate to see those guys walking out of here for the last time,” Gillespie said. “They’ve made a definite mark on Kentucky basketball, which is the best tradition in the history of the sport.”
Marquette will face off against three seed Stanford and the powerful Lopez brothers in the second round.

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