New York City, Marquette advanced to the Big East final by virtue of a 70-68 thriller over UConn. Friday night’s game at Madison Square Garden saw Marquette advance to the championship game against Xavier, an 82-60 winner over Creighton in the nightcap.
Three point(ers) of emphasis:
Finding a way to win. "We usually force 16 turnovers a game," Shaka Smart said. "UConn takes really good care of the ball. They turned it over only five times. We had to find another way to win. That’s what you do against a good team." Marquette also adjusted defensively. Early on Marquette would trap the point guard in half court and double any catches in the low post. Despite that, Danny Hurley’s Huskies were getting backdoor cuts and Adama Songoro (19 points, 11 boards) was effective inside. "We knew we would have to make adjustments," Smart admitted. "We did that just enough."
Joplin was a key. "I thought Jop (David Joplin) did a phenomenal job and changing the complexion of the game with his shooting and ability to stretch out the defense. Joplin tied Tyler Kolek for team scoring honors with 17 points. The 6’3" junior shot 4 of 5 from long distance.
Poise. Marquette built a ten point lead with just under 15 minutes to play. UConn came back to tie. In a game with 8 lead changes and 6 ties, Marquette maintained their poise during crunch time of a one possession game. "UConn was going to make a run," Smart admitted. "Down the stretch, I believe we had five-at least four, but I believe we had five stops in a row, and that’s what we needed to win it."
Possessions: 59- A basic grind it out pace in a contest of high intensity.
Offensive efficiency: Marquette 119, UConn 115. Very high efficiency for both teams.
Leading scorers: UConn- Adama Songoro 19, Marquette - Tyler Kolek, David Joplin 17.
Kenpom.com MVP: Tyler Kolek, Marquette- 17 points, 6 assists. The sophomore guard can score on the perimeter or get inside the lane. One of Kolek’s greatest strengths is his unselfishness. He is a pass-first backcourt star.
Records: Marquette 27-6, UConn 25-8.
How did Marquette’s coaching staff prepare for the championship game? Two assistants live scouted the Xavier-Creighton game. Then, back to the hotel to review the game against UConn. Early morning, go over tape of the two games with Xavier. Tournament time means little rest for the coaches. Who complains while you are winning.