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Marquette coach Shaka Smart hopeful star Tyler Kolek can return for Big East tournament after oblique injury

Marquette’s Tyler Kolek has averaged 15 points and a Division-1 best 7.6 assists per game this season

Though he won’t be available for their big matchup against No. 2 UConn on Wednesday night, Shaka Smart is confident that Marquette star Tyler Kolek will be able to “play at some point very soon.”

Kolek went down with an oblique injury during the Golden Eagles’ win over Providence last week after he awkwardly twisted his body when making a pass. He left for good in the second half of that 91-69 win and has not played since. Kolek missed No. 8 Marquette’s loss at No. 10 Creighton on Saturday, and he's been ruled out for the Golden Eagles’ final two games of the regular season.

While that’s not a good sign going into the final week of the season, Smart said Tuesday that he believes there is a “distinct possibility” that Kolek will be back with the team for the start of the Big East tournament.

"I'm sure he probably doesn't fully communicate how much it eats him up," Smart said, via The Associated Press. "He's a guy that, it's hard for him to go a matter of hours without going back to the gym and working on his game. So to go days in a row where he can't really do much is a challenge.

"But at the same time, he verbalized to me that it's good that each day he's able to do a little bit more. He was on the bike yesterday. He lifted weights today. So he's making progress towards coming back, which is awesome."

Marquette’s Tyler Kolek has averaged 15 points and a Division-1 best 7.6 assists per game this season
Marquette’s Tyler Kolek has averaged 15 points and a Division-1 best 7.6 assists per game this season. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) (Patrick McDermott via Getty Images)

Kolek has averaged 15 points and a Division-I best 7.6 assists per game this season. He was named the Big East player of the year last season while helping the Golden Eagles to both a regular season and conference tournament title, too.

Naturally, Kolek has been a huge piece in Marquette’s success this season. They’ll enter Wednesday’s game at Fiserv Forum with a 22-7 record, which has them in second in the Big East standings. The last time the Golden Eagles took on UConn, however, the Huskies cruised to a dominant 28-point win. Kolek had just seven points in that loss and shot 2-of-11 from the field.

“They’re still champions, and have one of the best cultures in college sports,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said of Marquette without Kolek on Tuesday, via NJ.com.

After Wednesday, Marquette will close the regular season at Xavier on Saturday. UConn has clinched the regular season Big East title, though Marquette holds just a half game lead over Creighton in second place.

Though Kolek won’t be there, Marquette is expected to have forward Oso Ighodaro back Wednesday night. Ighodaro missed Saturday’s game in Omaha due to an illness. That should help at least a little bit.

"He's feeling much better," Smart said, via The Associated Press. "He had a really tough flu bug and literally wasn't able to leave the hotel when we got on the bus to go to the Creighton game. But he's doing much better. He practiced yesterday."