PREVIEW: Marquette faces UConn for first time since return to BIG EAST

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First-year forward Dawson Garcia (33) goes up for a rebound against Georgetown (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

The Marquette Golden Eagles will host the UConn Huskies for the first time this season Tuesday at 8 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Connecticut enters the matchup with a 4-1 overall record and a 1-1 record in conference play. The Huskies had a game against North Carolina State cancelled Dec. 5, and have also had conference games postponed against St. John’s, Georgetown, Providence and DePaul due to COVID-19 protocols.

UConn is coming off a Dec. 30 82-61 win against DePaul. Junior guard Tyrese Martin led the way for Connecticut with 22 points and 10 rebounds. After transferring from the University of Rhode Island, the 6-foot-6 Allentown, Pennsylvania native has been a nice piece for the Huskies, averaging 10.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in four games played.

Although Martin’s efforts led the way against the Blue Demons, sophomore guard James Bouknight has often been the center of attention. The unanimous All-Freshman Team selection is averaging a conference-leading 23.2 points while shooting at a 48% clip. He has also tallied 27 rebounds and eight steals in his first five games.

Despite Bouknight’s efficient offensive production, UConn has struggled from the field as a team. Connecticut is shooting 44%, which ranks ninth in the BIG EAST. They also hold the second-lowest 3-point percentage in the conference, at 32%.

Marquette is coming off a 64-60 comeback win against the Georgetown Hoyas on Saturday night. The Golden Eagles erased an 18-point deficit in the second half to earn their sixth win of the season. Senior forward Jamal Cain had a career-high 25 points and first-year forward Justin Lewis added 10 points off the bench. BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year Dawson Garcia flirted with a double-double, posting nine points and 13 rebounds.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak that started prior to their holiday break. MU’s last victory had come Dec. 14 against No. 9 Creighton.

Unlike the Huskies, the Golden Eagles have one of the best 3-point percentages in the BIG EAST, at 38%. DePaul is the only team with a higher 3-point percentage, but the Blue Demons have only played three games due to positive COVID-19 tests.

This game will feature two of the best rebounding teams in the BIG EAST. Connecticut ranks second, hauling in 42 rebounds per game, while Marquette ranks third, pulling in just under 40 rebounds per game. Martin, Garcia, Cain, Lewis, UConn senior forward/center Josh Carlton, UConn senior forward Isaiah Whaley and Marquette senior forward Theo John are all among the top 20 rebounders in the conference.

It will be the 10th meeting since 2006 between the two programs. The Golden Eagles hold a 6-3 record and have won the last three matchups against the Huskies.

Marquette will look to win back-to-back games for the third time this season, while UConn will look to beat MU for the first time in nine years. The game will be telecasted on FS1.

This story was written by Nick Galle. He can be reached at nicholas.galle@marquette.edu or on Twitter @thenickgalle