Madison Square Garden— After 18 years in the Big East, Marquette has finally figured out a way to play Saturday night for the Big East Championship.
Marquette Tyler Kolek and David Joplin each scored 17 points, as No. 6 Marquette slips into the Big East Championship game for the first time by beating No. 11 UConn 70-68 on Friday night.
The Golden Eagles, the top seed in this tournament for the first time, has won eight in a row for the first time since the 2018-19 season.
The UConn men’s basketball team needed a huge shot in the final minute of its Big East Tournament semifinal matchup but came up a little short. The Huskies had a chance to tie or win in the final seconds, but coach Dan Hurley elected not to call a timeout as his team brought the ball across half court. Guard Jordan Hawkins came up short badly on a contested, desperation 3 at the buzzer.
Hawkins struggled all night caught a pass from Tristen Newton and was forced to quickly heave it up from the top of the arc with the defender Kam Jones all over him. The ball caromed off the backboard and Marquette began to celebrate.
“At one point, I looked out, and we got a bunch of freshmen and sophomores out there fighting, battling, scratching for their lives,” coach Shaka Smart said. “These guys didn’t blink. They were lost in a fight the entire night. It was a ton of fun to watch.”
The Huskies are now 10-5 all-time in Big East Tournament semifinal games and has lost all three since rejoining the conference. Marquette will play either Creighton or Xavier on Saturday in the program’s first-ever Big East Tournament Championship game.
In the first half, the game went back and forth with the teams going into the break knotted at 38 apiece.
Playing with three key players on the bench in foul trouble for a large amount of time down the stretch, the top-seeded Golden Eagles (27-6) opened a four-point lead on a 3-pointer by Olivier-Maxence Prosper with 3:39 left and then held on down the stretch.
Marquette’s largest lead in the first half was three points; UConn’s was five.
“I thought we got some great looks at 3s there down two, we got out in transition, had a couple 3s to get us the lead. This time of the year, in March, you’ve got to make shots in big spots and especially against teams of Marquette’s caliber,” Hurley said. “It felt like a Sweet 16 type of game, Elite 8 type of game. Thought we had chances to take the lead and surge ahead, we just didn’t make the shots.”
Marquette limited the fourth-seeded Huskies (25-8) to two points over the final 3:50 and kept them scoreless for the last 2 1/2 minutes, winning for the first time in four semifinal appearances at the Big East Tournament since joining the league in 2005.
The Golden Eagles last points on Saturday came with three minutes and 42 seconds left in the game. After Adama Sanogo made a layup with the clock showing 2:38, UConn was down two with five more opportunities to score. The Huskies took four 3-pointers, three of which were wide open, and one layup, but had no points to show for it.
Adama Sanogo had 19 points and 11 boards for the Huskies, who had won six straight and nine of 10.
“It’s a testament to the depth that we have on our team,” Smart said. “These guys, if you cut them open, you’ll find inside them championship DNA.”
Kam Jones chipped in 14 points and Prosper scored 11 for the Golden Eagles.