No. 2 UConn beats No. 10 Marquette 73-57 to win 1st Big East Tournament title since 2011


NEW YORK — Donovan Clingan scored 22 points and Jaylin Stewart gave No. 2 UConn an unexpected boost with three second-half 3-pointers during a decisive run as the top-seeded Huskies beat No. 10 Marquette 73-57 on Saturday night to win the Big East Tournament for the first time since rejoining the league four years ago.

The Huskies’ eighth Big East Tournament title matched Georgetown for the most in conference history and was their first since 2011, when Kemba Walker led UConn to five wins in five days — and then a national title.

Stewart, a freshman who was averaging 2.4 points off the bench, scored nine in about a four-minute span as UConn (31-3) pulled away from a game Marquette team playing without injured star Tyler Kolek (oblique) for a sixth straight game.

Kam Jones led the third-seeded Golden Eagles (25-9), the defending tournament champions, with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Two years after UConn’s last Big East Tournament title the conference broke up and the Huskies went with the schools to form the American Athletic Conference, where they won another national championship — and then fell off.

UConn returned to the Big East in 2020-21 and to national prominence. The Huskies won their fifth NCAA title last year, but the conference tournament championship had eluded coach Dan Hurley’s team. UConn hadn’t even reached the Saturday night final in its first three seasons back in the Big East.

For the New Jersey native and former Seton Hall guard Hurley, bringing that trophy back to Storrs was a big deal.

UConn improved to 8-3 in Big East finals.

As usual, UConn fans packed Madison Square Garden and for the second straight night Marquette faced a road-game environment. The Golden Eagles overcame a raucous Providence crowd in a rugged semifinal Friday night.

They couldn’t do it again against the mighty Huskies.

Two of the country’s best teams played one of the ugliest nine minutes of basketball imaginable to start the game.

At the second media timeout, the score was tied at 4 and the Golden Eagles and Huskies were a combined 3 for 22 from the floor. The defense was aggressive and physical, but it was also hard to keep track of just how many point-blank shots rolled off the rim.

Things picked up from there, and tournament MVP Tristen Newton swished a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the first half to give UConn a 26-24 lead at the break.

The shots started falling in the second half for both teams and UConn began asserting itself with about 10 minutes left, led by Stewart.

The Huskies went on a 19-5 run and led 60-44 with 5:52 remaining when Hassan Diarra made a corner 3 with 5:54 left in regulation. Stewart keyed the surge with his long-range shooting. He came into the game just 6 for 30 from 3-point range on the season.

MISSING

Kolek, last season’s Big East player of the year and tournament MVP, was relegated to the end of the bench, wearing a gray T-shirt and black joggers and coaching up his teammates during timeouts.

Marquette coach Shaka Smart has said all week the goal was to have Kolek ready to go for the NCAA Tournament.

UP NEXT

The Huskies, who won the NCAA Tournament as a 4 seed last year, could be the No. 1 overall seed this year after both Houston and Purdue lost in their conference tournaments Saturday. The Huskies’ road to the Final Four is all but certain to start back in New York at Barclays Center in Brooklyn next weekend.

The Golden Eagles will likely land in the tournament as a No. 2 or No. 3 seed.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball



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