No. 6 Marquette holds the no. 11 UConn in the Big East semifinals

NEW YORK – After 18 years in the Big East, Marquette finally made it to Madison Square Garden Saturday night.

Tyler Kolek and David Joplin each scored 17 points and the sixth-ranked Golden Eagles advanced to the Big East championship game for the first time by holding off No. 11 UConn 70-68 on Friday night.

Marquette will face the no. 15 by Xavier for the title. The second-seeded Musketeers beat third-seeded Creighton, 82-60.

Operating with three key players on the bench in foul trouble for much of the stretch, the top-seeded Golden Eagles (27-6) opened a four-point lead on Olivier-Maxence Prosper’s 3-pointer with 3:39 left and then held on to a loud MSG -in.

“At one point I looked out and we saw a bunch of freshmen and sophomores fighting, fighting, scratching for their lives,” coach Shaka Smart said. “These guys didn’t even blink. They were lost in battle all night. It was fun to watch.”

UConn had a chance to tie or win in the final 10 seconds, but coach Dan Hurley chose not to call a timeout as his team brought the ball across half court.

Jordan Hawkins missed hard on a contested, desperation 3 at the buzzer – and Smart jumped high and pumped his fist in celebration.

“It seemed like a lot of people gave UConn a game. There were also comments about who owns The Garden and things like that,” Smart said. “And, you know, we said wait a minute, we won this league. So we’re not putting anyone in the back seat.”

Marquette limited the fourth-seeded Huskies (25-8) to two points over the final 3:50 and held them scoreless for the final 2 1/2 minutes, winning for the first time in four Big East Tournament semifinals since joining the league in 2005.

Kam Jones added 14 points and Prosper 11 for the Golden Eagles.

Adama Sanogo had 19 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Huskies, who have won six straight and nine of 10.

“We came into this as one of the hottest teams in the country. We will not allow one game to set us back – said forward Alex Karaban, who scored 10 points.

Marquette, the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the first time, has won eight straight for the first time since the 2018-19 season.

Kolek, Joplin and Golden Eagles starting forward Oso Ighodaro sat with four fouls for a while before getting back into the game with just over two minutes left. Marquette didn’t score in the final 3 1/2 minutes, but still managed to hang on.

“It’s a testament to the depth we have on our team,” Smart said. “These guys, if you cut them open, you’ll find championship DNA inside them.”

Hawkins, averaging 16.5 points per game, was held to five on 2-for-11 shooting – including 1-of-8 from beyond the arc.

“That was the defensive key to the game,” Smart said.

Joey Calcaterra had a good look for UConn at a potential go-ahead 3 from the corner with 41 seconds left, but the ball bounced off the rim.

“It felt like a Sweet 16 type of game, an Elite Eight type of game,” Hurley said. “We’ll pick ourselves up very quickly and get ready to run next week.”

When the Huskies cut a 10-point deficit to four in the second half, a roaring, fired-up Hurley flew onto the court at halftime, waving his arms to encourage the jittery UConn fans. Jones went nose-to-nose with Sanoga right in the middle of the Connecticut huddle before an official swooped in to break it up.

UConn tied it at 60 on Calcaterra’s 3 with 9:22 left, and again at 64 on Karaban’s putback with 6:34 left.

Chase Ross drained the tiebreaking 3 for Marquette with 6:13 to play, and the Huskies never tied again.

Kolek, the Big East Player of the Year, had 14 points and four assists in a first half that featured eight lead changes and four ties. The teams went to the break with as many as 38-all.

“This is going to be tough,” Hurley said. “It’s going to be a really horrible mental and emotional hangover, I guess until Sunday.”


UConn: Dropped to 10-5 in Big East semifinal games, but is certainly playing well heading into the NCAA Tournament and appears talented enough to make the Final Four.

“We’ll definitely bounce back next week,” Sanogo said.

Marquette: Won 13 of 14. The school’s only league crown came in 1997, with four wins in four days at the Conference USA Championship in St. Louis. Louis.


Marquette split two close games with Xavier during the regular season.

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