Busting Brackets

Marquette Basketball: Golden Eagles fall to UConn In Big East Tournament Final

Marquette's fantastic Big East Tournament run and pursuit of back-to-back tournament championships ends at the hands of UConn behind a dominant second half.

Big East Basketball Tournament - Final
Big East Basketball Tournament - Final / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

After winning the Big East Conference Tournament last year, Marquette returned to the final on Saturday at Madison Square Garden to defend their title against #2 UConn. Three games in three days is tough for any team, but the grueling run through the tournament seemed to have more of an effect on Marquette, who also entered the game banged up. The strength of UConn would prove to be too much to allow for back-to-back Big East Tournament championships, and Marquette’s run through the tournament would fall short to perhaps the overall #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. 

Still without reigning Big East player of the year Tyler Kolek, Marquette would also have Stevie Mitchell playing through a shoulder injury that he suffered in the quarterfinal against Providence. A sluggish start for both teams ensued, and after a quick basket from Oso Ighodaro to start the game, Marquette would join UConn in the missed shot parade as the teams combined for 1-17 from the field and a 2-0 Marquette lead into the first media timeout. Efficiency would improve, but not by much. Marquette would end up shooting just 32% in the first half to UConn’s 30%, and after a couple of late threes from UConn, the Huskies would take a dismal 26-24 lead into halftime. 

The theme for UConn during the Big East Tournament had been slow starts and blistering second halves. Marquette would suffer the same fate as UConn showed their National Championship-contending form in the second session. The Golden Eagles had no answer for the 7’2” Donovan Clingan inside, with the UConn center grabbing rebound after rebound and becoming an easy target for high lobs inside. Clingan was also an easy foul target as Marquette tried to contest, and he would end up converting 8 of 11 from the line. Showing his dominance surrounded by some of the best players in the country, Clingan would finish with 22 points and a whopping 16 rebounds. 

Marquette really started to wear down in the second half, struggling for stops and losing the turnover battle. Kam Jones was defended well all night, being forced to his off-side, interrupting what had been working for Marquette without Tyler Kolek. David Joplin was a key contributor in the tournament heading into the final, but would find himself going 0-6 from the outside. Oso Ighodaro struggled to find his floater around the enormous presence of Clingan in the paint, scoring 8 points on 4-11 from the field and just 3 rebounds. Ben Gold was the only Marquette player to really find success against UConn, converting 3-4 field goals off the bench, including two from behind the arc. The performance wouldn’t be enough to bring home a second Big East Tournament title in as many years, as Marquette would surrender the title to UConn 73-57.

Marquette had a fantastic Big East Tournament considering their situation. Without Kolek, the Golden Eagles were able to make it through to the final and learned new ways to win. Add battle-tested to the list, and Marquette heads into the NCAA Tournament a stronger team, especially once Tyler Kolek is added back into the mix. 

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Marquette will await their NCAA Tournament seeding on Sunday, where most experts have them as a #2 seed.