A first-time Big East tournament champion will be crowned on Saturday when No. 6-ranked Marquette faces No. 15 Xavier in New York.
Top-seeded Marquette (27-6) held on for a 70-68 win over No. 11 UConn on Friday to advance to its first championship game since joining the league from Conference USA before the 2005-06 season.
Second-seeded Xavier (25-8) rolled to an 82-60 victory over No. 24 Creighton on Friday to advance to the title game for just the second time since arriving from the Atlantic-10 prior to the 2013-14 season.
The Golden Eagles reached their first Big East championship game after Chase Ross hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer for a 67-64 lead they wouldn’t relinquish with 6:14 left.
The fourth-seeded Huskies had a chance to win on their final possession, but Jordan Hawkins’ contested 3-pointer fell short as time expired.
“It was a slugfest down the stretch and our guys dug deep,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said.
“The key has been, can we stay connected around helping each other be our best and what goes into winning? That’s what our guys did tonight.”
Tyler Kolek had 17 points, six assists and four rebounds for the Golden Eagles, while David Joplin added 17 points and three boards. Kam Jones had 14 points and six rebounds, while Olivier-Maxence Prosper finished with 11 points to help Marquette win its eighth straight game.
“It’s a testament to the depth that we have on our team,” Smart said. “These guys, if you cut them open, you’ll find inside them championship DNA.”
The Golden Eagles’ 27 wins are one shy of tying the single-season school record, which was set during the 1970-71 season.
Xavier’s step to its first Big East tournament title game since falling to Villanova in 2015 was much less dramatic.
The Musketeers used a 16-3 run to take a 29-15 lead with 7:29 left in the first half and never looked back in winning their fifth straight game.
Xavier scored 17 points off the Bluejays’ 13 turnovers, while Creighton mustered just six points off the Musketeers’ 10 miscues.
The Musketeers were led by Souley Boum’s 23 points, six assists and five rebounds. Jack Nunge had 17 points and seven rebounds, while Colby Jones finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Desmond Claude scored 11 points.
“Today we played as well as we can,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “We have some older guys who have been through some different experiences.”
Marquette and Xavier’s two regular-season meetings were decided by a total of five points.
Xavier had six players finish in double figures in scoring on Jan. 15, led by Boum and Nunge, who had 16 points apiece in an 80-76 win over the visiting Golden Eagles.
Marquette returned the favor when Prosper tipped-in Kam Jones’ missed layup with 1.6 seconds left to lift the Golden Eagles to a 69-68 win on Feb. 15.
Stevie Mitchell had 17 points for Marquette, while Kolek and Oso Ighodaro added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
–Field Level Media