HARTFORD, Conn. — With family members and friends watching from the front row, Murray State’s Ja Morant recorded a triple-double in an 83-64 win over Marquette in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday at the XL Center.
As Morant grabbed his 10th rebound (he had 15 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds at the time) in the final minutes, fans throughout the building stood and cheered.
“Triple-double! Triple-double!” fans screamed.
Morant finished with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds. He is the eighth player to record a triple-double in the NCAA tournament and the first since Draymond Green did it twice with Michigan State, in 2011 and 2012, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
“It was a lot of fun,” Morant said after No. 12 Murray State triumphed over No. 5 Marquette, “just being able to go out with these guys and get a win in the NCAA tournament.”
He said his teammates “make me better.”
Ja Morant has high praise for his teammates after posting the first triple-double in the NCAA tournament since Draymond Green in 2012.
Morant was the star of the day, as he topped Marquette guard Markus Howard’s effort with a game-changing performance in the win.
It was Morant’s third triple-double of the season, after he also did it Nov. 24 against Missouri State and Feb. 28 at Morehead State. He joins Andre Iguodala, Hassan Whiteside, Stephane Lasme and Kyle Collinsworth (who did it twice) as the only players with three or more triple-doubles in a season over the past 20 seasons.
His 16 assists Thursday tied for the second-most in an NCAA tournament game. Only UNLV’s Mark Wade had more, when he recorded 17 against Indiana in 1987. Ten of Morant’s 16 assists led to dunks or layups. He was the first player to get 15 assists in the tournament since Ohio State’s Aaron Craft against George Mason in 2011.
Triple-Doubles In NCAA TournamentPlayerSchool2019 1st RdJa MorantMurray St.2012 1st RdDraymond GreenMichigan St.2011 1st RdDraymond GreenMichigan St.2009 2nd RdCole AldrichKansas2003 Elite 8Dwyane WadeMarquette1998 Elite 8Andre MillerUtah1993 1st RdDavid CainSt. John’s1992 1st RdShaquille O’NealLSU1987 2nd RdGary GrantMichigan*Since 1984— ESPN Stats & Information
Morant scored or assisted on 55 points, the most points created by a player in a game in the past 10 NCAA tournaments.
Morant also recorded just the second 15-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound game in the past 20 seasons in all games. The only other was by Drake’s Nick Norton on Dec. 1 this season against North Dakota State.
This was also only the fourth official 15-point, 15-assist game in the NCAA tournament after Earl Watson in 2000, Sam Crawford in 1993 and Keith Smart in 1987. None of those performances included double-digit rebounds.
“The best thing about that kid is his decision-making,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said after Thursday’s game. “I mean, you’re talking about an elite, elite decision-maker, who’s got athleticism.”
One NBA executive who watched the game said Morant showed that he’s “an elite passer with elite athleticism.”
The Racers will face Florida State, which beat Vermont on Thursday, in the second round on Saturday.