Marquette coach Shaka Smart gets emotional after team edges out Colorado to reach Sweet 16

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The Marquette Golden Eagles are heading to the Sweet 16 after a tough battle with the Colorado Buffaloes on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The 81-77 victory was no easy get, even with Marquette owning an 11-point lead at halftime. It came down to key plays in crunch time, and veteran guard Tyler Kolek hitting some clutch baskets to preserve Marquette’s lead to eventually hear the final buzzer sound in their favor. 

After the game, Marquette head coach Shaka Smart spoke with CBS’ Andy Katz, and he couldn’t contain his emotion as Katz noticed that he was getting choked up. 

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Shaka Smart, the head coach of the Marquette Golden Eagles, gives a hug to Tyler Kolek, #11, in the game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – First Round – Indianapolis at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 22, 2024, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

“Just gratitude. Gratitude for these guys, our fans, our guys hanging in there continuing to fight, and now we get to keep playing,” Smart said as he tried holding back tears. 

Smart’s emotion is what makes him such a great coach, no matter whether it was with VCU during their Final Four run in 2011 or him wearing his heart on his sleeve in defeat with the University of Texas – a team he never won an NCAA Tournament game with. 

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In his third season with Marquette, Smart is finally back in the Sweet 16 after not winning a tournament game in his first season and not making it out of the second round last year. 

Shaka Smart points with Marquette bench

Head coach Shaka Smart of the Marquette Golden Eagles celebrates a turnover against the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 24, 2024, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

“So grateful for our guys just hanging in there,” Smart said of his team down the stretch on Sunday. “There were so many moments we could’ve cracked. Been through a lot of adversity this year. Getting (Kolek) back right on time was perfect for us. He led the way, and his belief and toughness really transferred over to our other guys.”

As Smart’s squad now gets to go home before heading down to Dallas for the Sweet 16, Katz asked what keeps him going, and if the tears didn’t tell you enough, his words certainly did. 

“Love. I love these guys,” he said. “I don’t want this season to end, that’s the biggest thing. So now we get several more days. Get to go home and rest up. Go down to Dallas.” 

Shaka Smart claps

Head coach Shaka Smart of the Marquette Golden Eagles reacts against the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 24, 2024, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

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Marquette will prepare to face No. 11 NC State, a team that continues to make a Cinderella run. They defeated No. 6 Texas Tech and No. 14 Oakland to reach the Sweet 16.

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