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No. 17 Marquette barely hangs on to beat St. John's 73-72 at Madison Square Garden

NEW YORK (AP) — Tyler Kolek is almost automatic at the foul line.

Usually.

But when the reigning Big East player of the year clanked three straight free throws down the stretch, No. 17 Marquette had to hang on by the skin of its teeth Saturday.

Oso Ighodaro scored 17 points, Kolek had 15 points and 11 assists, and the Golden Eagles held off a furious St. John's rally for a 73-72 victory at Madison Square Garden.

“We certainly made some mistakes late, but guys just stayed connected and kept playing for each other,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said.

After trailing by 13 with six minutes left, the Red Storm forced a string of turnovers and took advantage of four missed free throws by Marquette to give themselves a chance for a stirring comeback win.

Kolek, a 94% free-throw shooter (46 for 49) entering the game, missed three in the final 2:05 and Marquette went the last 2:50 without scoring.

Daniss Jenkins, however, missed a foul shot that would have tied it for St. John's with 38.9 seconds remaining, and Chris Ledlum was off target on an open 3-pointer with 10 seconds to go.

Jenkins had one last opportunity to win it, but his 3 at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

“We had two great looks," St. John's coach Rick Pitino said. “Unfortunately, it didn't bounce our way."

Pitino was back on the sideline following a bout with COVID-19. The 71-year-old Hall of Famer missed Tuesday night’s blowout loss at Seton Hall, then returned to practice this week.

But the Red Storm were still minus Jordan Dingle, the team’s third-leading scorer at 10.5 points per game, because of illness. And three assistant coaches were unavailable: Ricky Johns, Van Macon and Taliek Brown.

David Joplin had 13 points and Stevie Mitchell scored 12 for the Golden Eagles (13-5, 4-3 Big East), who missed their first 11 attempts from 3-point range and trailed by 10 late in the first half. Ighodaro shot 8 for 10 and grabbed five rebounds.

“Shots haven't been falling for us, but we still trust our process on offense,” Ighodaro said.

RJ Luis Jr. scored a season-high 20 for the Red Storm (12-7, 4-4), who dropped their third straight game — two by one point against ranked opponents. Jenkins had 16 points and Ledlum added 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“I thought our guys showed amazing character down the stretch,” Pitino said. “I think we’re making strides."

Joplin drained Marquette's first 3 to begin the second half and hit another one to snap a 56-all tie with 10:27 remaining. That started a 10-0 run for the Golden Eagles, and another 3 by Joplin gave them their largest lead at 71-58 with 6:20 left.

Marquette shot 75% from the field after halftime, going 6 for 9 on 3s, and won despite finishing 3 for 9 at the foul line.

“The way our guys, like, came together and fought and battled to start the second half, that felt familiar,” Smart said. “That’s what we’ve done in the past on the road to go take games, and it’s not easy. And even then it comes down to the last second.”

BIG PICTURE

Marquette: Minus injured guards Chase Ross (separated shoulder) and Sean Jones (knee), the defending Big East champions are a little thin right now. Ranked as high as No. 3 in the AP Top 25 earlier this season, they're not playing their best basketball at this point. But they've managed to win their last two games after losing two straight and three of five. Jones is out for the season. Ross could return after this month.

St. John’s: In their first season under Pitino, the Red Storm are in position to chase an NCAA Tournament bid. But they need to start pulling out some of these tough games against top opponents — and now they'll be without graduate guard Nahiem Alleyne for a while. Alleyne, who won a national title at UConn last year, sprained his right ankle in the first half and is expected to miss significant time, Pitino said.

UP NEXT

Marquette: Will play Wednesday night at last-place DePaul, the second game in a stretch featuring four of five on the road.

St. John’s: Will host Villanova on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, looking to sweep the regular-season series.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball