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FLOOR SLAPS: Marquette hangs on to defeat DePaul in BIG EAST Tournament first round

Matt+Heldt+scored+six+points+on+3-of-3+shooting+and+had+a+vital+block+in+Marquette%27s+72-69+BIG+EAST+Tournament+win+vs.+DePaul+%28Wire+stock+photo%29.
Matt Heldt scored six points on 3-of-3 shooting and had a vital block in Marquette's 72-69 BIG EAST Tournament win vs. DePaul (Wire stock photo).

Matt Heldt scored six points on 3-of-3 shooting and had a vital block in Marquette's 72-69 BIG EAST Tournament win vs. DePaul (Wire stock photo).

Matt Heldt scored six points on 3-of-3 shooting and had a vital block in Marquette's 72-69 BIG EAST Tournament win vs. DePaul (Wire stock photo).

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With Marquette in a “survive and advance” scenario, DePaul big man Max Strus had a chance to take down the Golden Eagles and end their NCAA Tournament hopes with an open 3 in the final seconds. The shot was off the mark, however, leading to a 72-69 Marquette victory in the first round of the BIG EAST Tournament Wednesday night.

KINGS OF THE ONE-POSSESSION WINNERS

Marquette has made a habit of playing games down to the wire, and that was again the case tonight.

In head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s four years, Marquette has had 17 BIG EAST games that have been decided by one possession. The Golden Eagles were able to get their eighth one-possession win of the Wojo era, which he attributed partially to senior Andrew Rowsey’s fearlessness.

“(There was) a tremendous amount of game pressure on us at that point,” Wojo said. “We were fortunate to have a guy like (Rowsey), who doesn’t feel game pressure. He’s a fearless player. And he made obviously huge plays when we needed it the most.

Wednesday’s game against the Blue Demons was the first one-possession win in the BIG EAST Tournament for Wojo. Marquette is now 8-9 in one-possession games since Wojo took over the program.

GOLDEN EAGLES HOLD OFF LATE REBOUNDING SURGE

In the Golden Eagles’ last game against DePaul, the Blue Demons grabbed 44.2 percent of their missed shots.

Wednesday’s story was partially similar. DePaul grabbed 41.7 percent of its own misses – but with one big difference: Marquette got the rebounds that mattered. Specifically, a gritty team rebound after a block from junior center Matt Heldt gave the ball back to Marquette with 36 seconds left and a two-point lead.

DePaul finished the game with a 36-29 rebounding advantage. Eight of Marquette’s 29 rebounds came on the offensive end. Heldt had three of them while finishing with six points on 3-of-3 shooting, one assist and that crucial block.

NO NOVA, NO TOURNEY?

Beating DePaul was a must for a return to the NCAA Tournament. With the win, Marquette will now face second-seeded Villanova Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. In both earlier contests, the Wildcats won tight games, including an 85-82 thriller at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The Wildcats will lean heavily on juniors Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, as well as BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Omari Spellman.

A win against the Wildcats would almost certainly secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. However, a loss means Marquette will sweat on Selection Sunday.

UP NEXT

Marquette will square off against Villanova in the second round of the BIG EAST Tournament Thursday night at 7:00 p.m Central time.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

“Whether we play at 9.00 a.m. or 9:00 p.m., the opportunity to play tomorrow is a gift, and we need to make the most of it without making excuses,” Wojo said. “We’ll do our best to prepare ourselves against a Villanova team that’s as good as any team in the United States.”

STAT OF THE NIGHT

Marquette freshman Greg Elliott missed his first free throw in more than two months. He hit his last 20 prior to his miss in the first half.

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