If you made sure to get your tickets to see Marquette men’s basketball on Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum, you got your money’s worth. Two top 25 ranked teams squared off and it lived up to the hype. At the horn, it was the home time smiling and high fiving as YOUR #25 ranked Golden Eagles toppled the #6 ranked UConn Huskies by a score of 82-76. MU is now 14-4 overall with nary a regulation loss since before Thanksgiving and a very robust 6-1 in Big East play. Connecticut drops to 15-3 overall and 4-3 in Big East play with all three losses coming on the road in their last four outings.
We can fast forward our recapping of this game to the 10:55 mark of the first half as Ben Gold hit a three-pointer to put Marquette up 20-15 in what had been a very fun basketball game through nine-ish minutes. UConn starting center and Big East Preseason Player of the Year Adama Sanogo had just subbed out moments earlier after picking up his first foul of the game. Head coach Dan Hurley knows exactly what he has in Donovan Clingan as his backup big, and hooooooboy did it immediately pay off for the Huskies. Clingan answered Gold’s triple with a dunk for his first bucket of the game.... and kicked off a 16-0 Connecticut run. Six of the points were from Clingan alone, and he added three rebounds, a steal, and a block as the Huskies went up 31-20 with 6:19 to play. That’s exactly the kind of thing that UConn is capable of doing at their max peak, and it’s absolutely the #1 thing that Marquette wanted to avoid in this game.
It happened though, so there’s nothing left to do but tighten up your belt and fix it. Oso Ighodaro scored next time down the court to break up the run..... and immediately trigger the start of an 11-1 for the Golden Eagles. MU was helped along by Sanogo subbing back in the game and almost immediately committing two turnovers. After another bucket from Ighodaro to end the run, it was 32-31 UConn with 1:52 left in the half, and it was almost as if UConn’s big run never happened.
The Huskies nudged away from Marquette a little bit, but after a turnover with seconds left in the half, Sean Jones flew down the court and hit a fadeaway at the elbow to make it 37-33 UConn at the break. All things considered, a perfectly acceptable half. You’d rather not trail by 11 or give up a 16-0 run, but since it did happen, this was a fine 20 minute outcome.
Kam Jones fouled Jordan Hawkins shooting a three to open up the second half, so it’s kind of like Marquette was really down seven at halftime. This is important to note, because the Golden Eagles immediately went on an 11-2 run after that, including Tyler Kolek finding Kam Jones in the corner to tie the game at 42 off a baseline out of bounds when UConn’s Andre Jackson was busy looking literally anywhere else but at Jones. Ighodaro scored the next time down the court, and Marquette was up for the first time in a looooong time.
This actually turned into a 19-6 run for Marquette capped by a David Joplin three-pointer over the very large Clingan and the only six points in the stretch for the Huskies came from Sanogo as he got his game together. Still, Joplin’s three-pointer put Marquette up 52-46 with 13:48 to go, and as it turns out, Marquette would never relinquish the lead.
They also didn’t lead by more than six for a good long while — including a very awesome Ighodaro and-1 alleyoop — and UConn did tie the game eventually. Alex Karaban got a layup with 9:03 to go to even it at 58-all, and it was very clear that this was A Game. MU answered with seven straight, including Olivier-Maxence Prosper cashing all of his freebies when Tristen Newton fouled him and/or the referees finally gave Prosper respect for constantly falling down after shooting the ball. 6:49 to go, and MU had their biggest lead..... and UConn immediately cut it to three.
Marquette kept responding, just like Shaka Smart wants them to, and a massive putback jam from OMax got the margin back to seven with 4:35 to play. Marquette tried driving and kicking until they finally got Clingan and his monstrous reach out of position and Kolek got a floating shot to fall, 71-64, 3:50 to go. Time starting leaning on MU’s side, and Joplin pushed the margin to nine, MU’s biggest of the game, with some free throws with 2:31 to go.
Game over? Game safe?
Absolutely not. UConn is one hell of a ball club, and they proved it by immediately slashing the margin to three.... but there was only 1:23 to go. Turns out 1:23 to go is Kam Jones Time, and he splashed a big ol’ three to make it a six point game, 76-70, with 64 seconds left.
Was there some last minute drama as Karaban got an and-1, and MU had to trust Oso Ighodaro and his 40.5% free throw shooting to ice the game? Yes, but it all worked out. Ighodaro hit four free throws in the final 40 seconds, and Stevie Mitchell, a sub-65% FT shooter who had badly missed a pair earlier in the game, nailed down two more, and that was that.
#6 loses at Fiserv Forum for the second time this season, with Baylor falling as the first victim.
Marquette had absolutely no idea what to do about Donovan Clingan, who finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, and two steals. MU got double digit outings from three guys, led by 19 from Ighodaro, who also had three rebounds, three assists, a block, and two steals. OMax Prosper added 17 points and six rebounds, and Kam Jones finished with 15. Tyler Kolek didn’t do much in the way of scoring, finishing with just six points, but he did have five rebounds and eight assists plus a very cool block of Joey Calcaterra when the game was very much up for grabs.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and CBS Sports?
Up Next: Marquette got this one, so the next one is a little bit of a house money game.... but it could just keep the good times rolling, too. On Sunday, Marquette will be in Cincinnati for an 11am Central time tipoff against #12 Xavier. The Musketeers also came up big at home on Wednesday night, getting a 90-87 win over Creighton to give themselves a 6-0 mark in Big East play and run their winning streak to 10 straight overall. That’s the fourth longest streak in the country at the moment, and it’s up to MU to ruin it.