When Marquette men’s basketball led UConn 8-5 at the Under-16 timeout of the first half of Friday night’s Big East tournament semifinal contest, I thought to myself, “okay, no matter what, this is better than last time, just keep going right at them.”
And that’s what they did. Fouls limiting Tyler Kolek, Oso Ighodaro, and David Joplin as the second half wore on? No problem. 16 offensive rebounds by the Huskies across 40 minutes, including nine in the second half? No problem. Last Five Minutes Oso Ighodaro, the best free throw shooter in the Big East, coming up short with just under two minutes to play? No problem. Letting a 10 point lead with 14:45 to go and an 8 point lead with 12:31 to go disappear to a tie with just under 10 minutes to play? No problem.
What does MU head coach Shaka Smart preach to his troops? Win Anyway. It Takes What It Takes. That’s the mindset that they took in this semifinal game. Did they let the lead disappear? Well, maybe let is a strong term, UConn’s a good basketball team, they were going to make some plays. The lead did disappear, yes.... but also UConn never grabbed it. In the final 10 minutes, UConn pulled even with Marquette twice, but they never took the lead. Marquette never trailed after David Joplin cashed a three back in the first half to turn a 31-30 UConn advantage to a 33-31 Marquette edge.
Marquette struggled to get kills all game long.... but when it mattered, after Adama Sanogo scored on a second chance with 2:38 to go, UConn wouldn’t score again. Marquette got five straight stops to end the game. Could they have done themselves a favor by scoring again after a three from Olivier-Maxence Prosper with 3:42 to go? Sure, absolutely. Didn’t happen though, so the Golden Eagles tightened their belts, cinched up their boots, and did what they needed to do to secure a 70-68 victory over UConn.
For the first time in program history, Marquette will be playing on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in the Big East tournament.
Tyler Kolek finished with 17 points after throwing in 14 in the first half to keep the Golden Eagles running right along side the Huskies. He also added four rebounds, six assists, a block, and two steals. He ties for the team high in points with David Joplin, who split his points mostly speaking down the middle between the two halves while shooting 4-for-5 from beyond the arc and adding three rebounds. Kam Jones shot 3-for-7 from long range to propel him to 14 points to go with a team high (!) six rebounds.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: Marquette plays for their first ever Big East tournament championship as well as the 2023 double championship at 5:30pm Central time on Saturday. Fox will carry the broadcast, but that’s all we know for right now. As I type this, Xavier leads Creighton 59-43 with 11:20 to go, so it feels like it’s probably going to be the Musketeers joining MU in the title game, but that’s a lot of time left, too.