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PREVIEW: Marquette set for rematch against DePaul in BIG EAST Championship

Photo by Austin Anderson

Photo by Austin Anderson

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A year ago, Marquette head coach Carolyn Kieger was full of optimism about her team’s potential after winning its first BIG EAST crown in a thrilling 76-68 win over DePaul.

“I think our potential is through the roof,” Marquette head coach Carolyn Kieger said after defeating DePaul last year. “The best thing about this group, right now, is that they’re hungry, they’re coachable; they don’t want this for themselves, they want it for each other.”

A year later, the top two seeds and BIG EAST heavyweights are set to meet once again with another conference crown and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line Tuesday night at Wintrust Arena.

Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on FS1.

BLOCKTON LOOKS TO CONTINUE TOURNAMENT TEAR

Marquette (23-19, 15-3 in BIG EAST) reached the championship with a 73-61 win over Butler Sunday and a 76-70 win over Creighton Monday. Junior guard Allazia Blockton proved why she was named the BIG EAST Player of the Year with a career-high 32 points and 11 rebounds in her 11th double-double of the season.

“Blockton is always good,” Creighton head coach Jim Flanery said. “But she was really good today.”

The Golden Eagles forced 13 turnovers en route to their victory, putting Marquette in exactly the position Kieger wants.

“When I got the job, I had a vision for where this program would go,” Kieger said. “I’m just so thankful we’re being rewarded for our hard work over the past four years.”

BLUE DEMONS SEEKING REVENGE

Meanwhile, DePaul (25-7, 15-3 in BIG EAST) is coming off an impressive 83-55 semifinal victory over Georgetown, holding the Hoyas to just 29 percent shooting and out-rebounding them 51-33. The victory was DePaul’s 11th in 12 games.

Four Blue Demons finished in double-digit figures including junior guard Ashton Millender, who had a 15-point, five rebound performance. Fellow guard Kelly Campbell recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

The 2018 BIG EAST Tournament marks the Blue Demon’s fourth title game appearance in the last five years.

SPLIT SEASON SERIES MAKES FOR MUST-WATCH CHAMPIONSHIP

Last year’s tightly-contested game was not the only memorable matchup between the two teams as DePaul and Marquette split this year’s series.

The Golden Eagles snagged the first meeting, 93-81, behind Allazia Blockton’s 25-point effort. However, in the second matchup in Chicago, the Blue Demons won 95-83 despite Natisha Hiedeman and Danielle King each scoring 20-plus points.

“I think we’re one of the most versatile teams in the country,” Kieger said. “We have six players that can go off for 20 [points] on any given night and, for us, that shows the level of trust we all have in each other.”

As Marquette attempts to make history in the third matchup, Amani Wilborn and Blockton have both averaged over 20 points so far in this year’s tournament. Wilborn’s 26-point performance against Butler and Blockton’s career-high performance against the Bluejays has propelled Marquette within reach of its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

“To have two back-to-back championship games just says a lot about the culture of the program,” Kieger said. “I couldn’t be more proud of where Marquette basketball is, and where it’s going.”

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