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2023 Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament Semifinals Preview: #1 Marquette vs #4 UConn

The Golden Eagles escaped in overtime in the quarterfinals, while the Huskies held off a late push to win.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 18 Butler at UConn Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2023 Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament


#1 Marquette Golden Eagles (26-6, 17-3 Big East) vs #4 Connecticut Huskies (25-7, 13-7 Big East)

Date: Friday, March 10, 2023
Time: 5:30pm Central
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

Season Series: Split 1-1 with both teams winning at home
All-Time Series: UConn leads, 8-7
Current Streak: UConn has won five of the last six meetings

Marquette reached the semifinals of this year’s Big East tournament by way of a 72-70 overtime victory against St. John’s in the quarterfinal round on Thursday. It was not a fun time, particularly with St. John’s ripping off a 21-2 run after the Golden Eagles got out to a 16-11 lead early on. MU scored the final points of the first half to start off a 17-2 run to turn that back into a game and used another 13-2 run to go up four, 53-49, with just under five minutes to go. They couldn’t hold it together though, and St. John’s was able to get a surprisingly easy layup from Dylan Addae-Wusu to force the extra session. That was SJU’s last field goal of the game, and while they threw in nine free throws, Marquette junior point guard and 2023 Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek bossed his way through the overtime period to push his team onwards in the tournament for the first time since 2019.

Connecticut had something of an inverted version of that in their quarterfinal contest against Providence. The Huskies got out to an 11-4 lead, and just kept that growing through the first half. It was 35-19 at intermission, and UConn had a 14-2 run bridging halftime that left them with a 41-20 lead. And yet, thanks to a pair of 12-0 runs by the Friars, the lead dwindled first to just 14, then to just five with less than four minutes to go. That’s as close as PC could get though, as Jordan Hawkins and Alex Karaban both hit threes in the last few minutes to keep the Friars at arm’s length til the horn.

Marquette and UConn played one very compelling game this season and one game that only UConn fans liked. The first meeting was back on January 11th, and after UConn went full National Championship Mode for a 16-0 run in the first half, Marquette answered with an 11-1 push of their own to make it a one point game with two minutes left to go before intermission. Marquette’s energy from their response helped carry them to respond to UConn all game long as MU kept trying to build a lead and the Huskies kept trying to wipe it away. Marquette made the plays they needed to play in front of the Fiserv Forum crowd, and they moved to 14-4 overall and 6-1 in the league after the 82-76 win over the #6 ranked Huskies.

When things switched to The Nutmeg State for the rematch, it did not go very well at all for Marquette. Alex Karaban hit a three to put UConn up 22-6 straight out of the gate and to cap off a 15-2 Huskies run. I guess the good news is that Marquette played UConn even, 66-65, for the remaining 32 minutes, but they never made a push to threaten to rally back into the game, either. Your final: #21 UConn 87, #10 Marquette 72.

In the first game, Marquette held UConn to just 27% long range shooting. More specifically, they held Jordan Hawkins (37% on the year) to just 1-for-4, Tristen Newton (37% on the year) to 1-for-5, and Joey Calcaterra (46% on the year) to 1-for-4. You’re going to win a lot of ball games holding the other team’s backcourt to 3-for-13 (23%) shooting on three-pointers. As you can probably tell, that did not go that way in the second matchup. When the game shifted to Hartford, those three gentlemen went a combined 6-for-10 from outside the arc largely because of a 5-for-8 night from Hawkins. As a team, UConn hit 52% of their threes in that game, and they were hitting them right out of the gate to put the Golden Eagles behind the eight ball right away.

Would that game have gone wildly differently if Marquette didn’t shoot just 24% from behind the line? Would a closer game have lent us a clue as to what UConn head coach Dan Hurley would do with freshman big man Donovan Clingan who was an absolute Destroyer of Worlds in Milwaukee..... but only played 10 minutes and still had eight rebounds in the second game? Will Friday night’s not-so-neutral court setting — there’s an awful lot of UConn fans just a train ride away from MSG, after all — help or hurt Marquette’s chances of reaching Saturday night’s title game for the first time ever? What lessons will both teams take away from not only their two regular season meetings, but also their own versions of difficulties in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon?

The winner of this game will advance to Saturday’s Big East tournament championship game. That contest will tipoff at 5:30pm Central time, and Fox will have the broadcast. As I type this, the opponent is very much up in the air, as the Xavier/DePaul winner and the Creighton/Villanova winner from the quarterfinal rounds will make up the other semifinal game and those games are still 25 minutes away from starting.