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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Banged-up Marquette can’t repeat tournament title, falls 73-57 to No. 1 seed UConn

Kam+Jones+and+Oso+Ighodaro+run+a+pick-and-roll+in+Marquettes+73-57+Big+East+championship+loss+to+UConn.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29
Kam Jones and Oso Ighodaro run a pick-and-roll in Marquette’s 73-57 Big East championship loss to UConn. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

NEW YORK — The dream could not be replicated.

Not completed. Not realized. Not fulfilled.

Marquette men’s basketball lit New York ablaze in blue and gold last year after winning its first Big East Tournament championship. Saturday night, the Big Apple was red and blue — colored like Storrs and its hometown Huskies.

The banged-up Golden Eagles hung around, but couldn’t last a full 40 minutes as No. 1 seed UConn stormed away in the second half to win 73-57 and sweep the conference trophies.

“Congrats to UConn. Terrific game by them. Terrific season by them,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought our guys had phenomenal fight. Went toe-to-toe with a team that’s probably played better than anyone in college basketball.

“I thought we ran out of steam there probably in the last 10 minutes.”

UConn pulls away after sloppy start

Only eight total points were scored in the opening eight minutes, as the two teams sat deadlocked 4-4 after shooting a combined 3-for-22.

Everyone was missing open looks and easy (what should’ve been) gimme baskets.

At halftime, Marquette trailed 26-24 — even though UConn shot a measly 2-for-11 from beyond the arc — and the game was shaping up to be similar to the two teams’ tournament semifinal bout last season, which ended with a narrow Marquette win.

The Golden Eagles were able to keep the game close out of the locker room and it was only a two-point game at the 11:31 mark.

But UConn is going to UConn. And it was only a matter of time until it started scoring.

The Huskies pieced together a 16-2 run — catalyzed by threes from Jaylin Stewart, Tristen Newton and Hassan Diarra — and took a 16-point lead, 60-44, with 1:53 remaining. The Golden Eagles failed to record a point in the final 2:40.

“I think we guarded them extremely well the first half, and we just have to keep up those same efforts throughout the game,” junior forward David Joplin said. “It just made it difficult as time went on.”

UConn shot a blistering 63% in the second half after finishing the opening 20 minutes only 30% from the field.

Ighodaro and Mitchell banged up

The already-short Golden Eagles’ bench got even shorter Saturday.

Junior guard Stevie Mitchell was wearing a wrap on his shoulder — after taking a big shot Friday in the semifinals — and played only 26 minutes.

He finished with just eight points, but Smart doesn’t expect him to miss any game time.

“Warrior. That’s the status update on him. He’ll probably play in our next game,” Smart said before clarifying his answer. “Not probably, almost definitely. But he’s banged up. He’s got an assortment of different things [he is dealing with].”

Alongside Mitchell, senior forward Oso Ighodaro didn’t play down the stretch after bumping his knee. He sat on the bench for the final seven minutes.

“He banged his knee and he was struggling getting up and down the floor so I took him out because he looked like he wasn’t moving well. He just said in the locker room now, he feels like he’s going to be fine,” Smart said.

“When you play in this league with the physicality with which teams are allowed to play, there’s going to be a lot of different bumps and bruises and things that come up.

“Oso is a warrior as is Kam (Jones) as is Jop (Joplin) as is Stevie.”

Golden Eagles can’t contain Donovan Clingan

He goes by “Cling Kong” for a reason.

Why he earned that nickname — and the reputation that comes with it — was a big part of Marquette’s loss.

The 7-foot-2 behemoth had his way with the Golden Eagles, putting up a double-double of 22 points and 16 rebounds.

“Donovan Clingan was the biggest difference,” Smart said. “He puts you in a bind as a team defensively because it’s hard to to guard him with one guy, and the way that we defend pick-and-rolls, sometimes smaller guys get on him, and that’s a problem.”

Sophomore forward Ben Gold was forced to defend Clingan for a lot of the game.

“Actually when he’s out there, he’s just as hard for bigger guys to deal with as they are for him to deal with because of skill set,” Smart said of Gold, who finished with eight points.

Marquette looks ahead to NCAA Tournament

The Golden Eagles begin preparing for the NCAA Tournament, which starts next week. And they’ll use what happened in the tournament — advancing to the championship despite being shorthanded and collecting knocks — to help them prepare.

“Coach just said it’s a big reminder that it takes what it takes,” junior guard Kam Jones said. “Definitely using this experience to take into March Madness for sure.”

The tournament selection show starts Sunday evening at 5 p.m. CST.

“We still have life,” Joplin said. “Obviously losing this game is not what we wanted, but we have bigger goals, bigger aspirations, and we want to have the most fun in our lives the next couple weeks.

“Today was rough for sure, but if we get the opportunity, like Coach said earlier in the locker room, we’ve got a great team, and we’ve got a great chance to play well in the tournament, and that’s all you need is a chance.”

The Golden Eagles’ odds of success skyrocket if their All-American floor general returns.

“Hopefully we’ll get No. 11 (Tyler Kolek) back next time we play,” Smart said.

This article was written by Jack Albright. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @JackAlbrightMU.

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About the Contributor
Jack Albright, Executive Sports Editor
Jack Albright is a sophomore from Charlton, Massachusetts studying journalism. He is the Executive Sports Editor of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-24 school year. In his free time, Jack likes to hang out with friends and watch Formula 1. He is excited to write fun stories about all things Marquette athletics and oversee new types of digital content.

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