UConn dominates Marquette to win 19th BIG EAST Championship at Mohegan Sun

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Jordan King (23) shoots. against UConn in Marquette’s loss in the BIG EAST Tournament Final March 8. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

After rejoining the BIG EAST July 1, 2020, the No. 1-ranked University of Connecticut Huskies completed their undefeated conference season, winning the program’s 19th BIG EAST title and defeating Marquette women’s basketball 73-39 at Mohegan Sun Arena Monday night.

“My first year here at UConn, that was the goal, to make the BIG EAST Tournament,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “To go from that to then not being in the league to being back in the league, it felt pretty amazing (to win).”

This was the Golden Eagles’ fifth straight appearance in the BIG EAST Championship game and third time facing the Huskies this season. In the latest matchup between these two teams, Marquette almost upset UConn, but fell 63-53 at Gampel Pavilion. Monday night it was top-seeded UConn who wanted to show Marquette who was boss.

“We gained some confidence about a week ago when we played them out at Storrs,” Marquette head coach Megan Duffy said. “When you get to the Tournament in March, it’s a whole different level. … That third game in three days, they turned it up and we didn’t have a lot of answers with it.”

In the first quarter, the Huskies got out to a quick 12-2 start. Though the Golden Eagles tried to cut into that lead, UConn controlled the first 10 minutes.

They did not stop there, with 1:30 remaining in the first quarter, the Huskies were up by 21 points. That led to them outscoring the Golden Eagles 29-10 in the opening quarter. UConn shot 71% from the floor and was 5-for-6 from three in the first 10 minutes.

“I was pretty shocked with just how our team came out. We’ve been a hard-nosed, tough, relentless team all year,” Duffy said. “You get down that big in the first quarter to UConn, it’s uphill the rest of the way.”

It was junior guard Christyn Williams who came out hot for UConn, scoring nine points in the opening quarter on 4-for-4 shooting. Williams, alongside first-year guard Paige Bueckers, combined for 16 of the Huskies’ 29 points.

Even though Marquette outscored UConn 13-12 in the second quarter, it did not necessarily feel like the Golden Eagles were controlling the pace of the game. UConn had its largest lead of the first half during the second quarter at the 4:20 mark as the Huskies possessed the 39-14 advantage.

Slowly but surely, Marquette was able to address its scoring woes to end the quarter on a 9-2 run. The Golden Eagles increased shooting to 35% in the second quarter, however the Huskies went into the break leading 41-23. Both teams had 18 points in the paint during the first half.

Redshirt senior Lauren Van Kleunen led Marquette with six points at halftime. Sophomore forward Camryn Taylor contributed five rebounds. Meanwhile, Bueckers had a team-high 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting, along with four rebounds and two assists. 

The third quarter once again did not go Marquette’s way. Though Taylor made an early layup, guard Nika Muhl scored five straight points for the Huskies. UConn continued to dominate for the remainder of the quarter.

With 3:21 remaining in the third, UConn was up 53-28 as Buckers scored her 17th point on a fast break layup, which contributed to the Huskies’ 6-0 run over the last 2:26. MU committed three turnovers and went on a 2:49 scoring drought.

In the third quarter, the Huskies combined to shoot 6-for-14 and held the Golden Eagles to a shooting percentage of 23%. Just three Marquette players (Taylor, Liza Karlen and Taylor Valladay) scored in the third. Bueckers scored seven points, the same total as all three Golden Eagles combined.

Both teams struggled scoring to begin the fourth quarter, combining for just five points. The teams combined to shoot 1-for-13 from the field.

But then UConn went on an 8-0 run, holding Marquette to a scoring drought of over four minutes. That sealed the deal for the Huskies, as Bueckers’ step-back three gave UConn their biggest lead, at 67-35, with 3:58 left in the fourth quarter.

It was Taylor who led the Golden Eagles with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds. Marquette’s leading scorer, Selena Lott, was held to just two points throughout the whole game. Van Kleunen did not score after halftime and went 3-for-14 from the floor. Sophomore guard Jordan King also had a quiet night, shooting 1-for-9.

“Camryn Taylor did a great job of stepping up,” Duffy said. “Her will and relentlessness to try and score the basketball and rebound, definitely (a) bright spot for us.”

Bueckers, the BIG EAST Freshman and Player of the Year, scored a game-high 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting. She also contributed six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 37 minutes.

“Name one player that’s taken a team this young to where we are today. Who’s done more than (Paige)?” Auriemma said.

The Golden Eagles (19-6, 14-4 BIG EAST) now wait until March 15, or Selection Monday, to find out where they will be seeded for the NCAA Tournament, which begins March 21 in San Antonio, Texas. The selection show will be on ESPN March 15 at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time.

“When you lose and get your butt beat pretty good in the final, you get a chance to reset yourself and reload,” Duffy said. “(I’m) going to turn the page and be excited about prepping our team. … Just be thankful for the opportunity that we’re going to be able to keep playing in March.”

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at isabel.comerford@marquette.edu or on Twitter @zoe_comerford