March 6, 2022 

Inside the BIG EAST tournament quarterfinals

Seton Hall's dramatic win highlights a busy day of tournament action

UNCASVILLE — The BIG EAST tournament resumed Saturday from Mohegan Sun arena with four quarterfinal games. On the line were four spots in the semi-finals. Day one featured big wins for Georgetown, St. John’s and Seton Hall. See how these teams fared (and more!) in this BIG EAST quarterfinal wrap-up.

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No. 9 Georgetown vs. No. 1 UConn

UConn defeats Georgetown, 84-38

After Georgetown hit two quick three-pointers out the gate to take a 6-3 lead at the 7:15 mark in the first quarter, UConn’s stifling defense held the Hoyas without a field goal until the 2:32 mark in the second quarter.

“It’s been a long time coming,” UConn senior Christyn Williams said with a laugh. “We’ve had our struggles earlier on in the year, but coach is always on us in practice by staying aggressive on the defensive end. Like I said earlier, once we get going on the defensive end it just helps our team overall. It just brings a lot of energy for us.”

The Huskies’ stellar performance on the defensive end was accompanied by strong offensive performances by Christyn Williams (13 points) and freshman sharp-shooter Azzi Fudd (11 points) in the first half. Connecticut entered the locker room with a dominating 43-9 lead. UConn was also dominant on the glass in the first half, outrebounding Georgetown 22 to 13.

The Hoyas kept it more competitive in the third behind ten points from graduate student Mary Clougherty, who led all scorers for the quarter. UConn outscored Georgetown by just seven points in the third, 23-16.

The nine-seed Georgetown was overwhelmed by Connecticut’s depth, though, as forward Aaliyah Edwards stepped up big in the paint for the Huskies. The sophomore ended the game with 14 points on 6-7 shooting and also pulled down seven rebounds. Paige Bueckers also added 16 points, four assists and five rebounds in 15 minutes of play.

UConn fielded a balanced rotation throughout the game. Each off the team’s 11 players saw action on the court, with nine players seeing over 15 minutes of playing time.

“It definitely shows the depth that we have on our team and that whenever somebody subs in we’re going to come out with that same intensity,” Edwards said. “Coach emphasizes a lot on when you’re out there on the court give it your all because someone’s going to come in and match that same energy that you just produced. So I think that’s the mindset for everyone on the team.”

While Georgetown’s season has now comes to an end, Hoyas coach James Howard knows that UConn’s post-season ambitions are just beginning.

“Their length, their experience, their why. And what I mean when I say ‘why,’ they’re playing for a national championship,” Howard said. “They ain’t playing for anything else. They ain’t playing for BIG EAST championship. They’re playing for a national championship.”

No. 5 Marquette vs. No. 4 DePaul

Marquette defeats DePaul, 105-85

It was an offensive showcase in game two from Mohegan Sun area, with 190 points tallied between the two foes in a 105-85 Marquette victory. DePaul coach Doug Bruno identified the score that made the difference: a 49-17 Golden Eagles rebounding advantage.

“The score of the game, I don’t even — what was it, 105 by Marquette? But the score was really 49-17, and that was the rebounding numbers,” Bruno said. “And when the team can beat you off the backboard 49-17, that’s just a tribute to the toughness and competitiveness, combativeness, the grit of the Marquette basketball team. That’s what Marquette did to us tonight on the backboard and it translated into the score.”

By sending two or three players on BIG EAST freshman of the year Aneesah Morrow on the box-out, Marquette was able to hold the freshman to six rebounds, ending her double-double streak at 23 games. The versatile freshman still led all scorers with 29 points.

Marquette was too much for DePaul in the end, though. Each of the starters for the Golden Eagles ended the game with double-figure scoring. For Marquette super senior and graduate student Lauren Van Kleunen, the post-season brings out a different level of competitiveness.

“In the postseason, in March you raise your level. And that’s what we’ve talked about as a team, what coach [Megan] Duffy‘s message to us is as well,” said Van Kleunen. “I think that’s what separates the teams in March. So just trying to raise our level as much as possible. We did this tonight but enjoy this one and get back to it for round two.”

Marquette has shined in the BIG EAST tournament in the past half decade, reaching the conference tournament final the past five seasons. They won the conference tournament title with a win over DePaul in 2017.

No. 7 St. John’s vs. No. 2 Villanova

Villanova defeats St. John’s, 76-52

Villanova coach Denise Dillon believes that her Wildcats should have a shot at the NCAA tournament.

“I think the great basketball that we’re playing, what we’ve done since January. Just the roll we’re on. And we have Maddy Siegrist, one of the best players in the country. I think she should be on the national stage and seen, how she’s leading her team and how we’re playing,” Dillon said. “We’re playing some really good basketball. High level. I think the Big East is a great league, and it’s tough night in, night out. And that will be recognized. But I think it needs to be known right now.”

The two-seed Villanova certainly looked like a NCAA tournament team in its 76-52 dismantling of the Johnnies Saturday evening. BIG EAST player of the year Maddy Siegrist led all scorers with 24 points. The junior also added eight rebounds and an assist for the Wildcats.

To date, ESPN’s Charlie Creme projects the Wildcats as one of the “first four out” and a bubble team for the upcoming NCAA tournament. It’s not clear how a deep run in the conference tournament would shape their chances for an NCAA bid when the Selection Committee announces the field next Sunday.

The Wildcats were propelled to victory by Brianna Herlihy, who contributed 16 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Herlihy identifies the chemistry that has developed between this Villanova team as a key reason they are so successful on the court.

“We all celebrate each other,” Herlihy said. “That’s a big thing that coach puts emphasis on. I think when you have your teammates behind you, it really helps you when you know that they trust you, they trust you to make shots, make big plays. And obviously when you’re passing the ball and people are making shots you’re getting assists, my trust with them in that. I think just having a team around you that supports you really keeps me going.”

No. 6 Seton Hall vs. No. 2 Creighton

Seton Hall defeats Creighton, 66-65

As the Seton Hall Pirates trailed the Seton Hall Bluejays with about 14 seconds remaining in the BIG EAST quarterfinal, Pirates junior Lauren Park-Lane dribbled the ball near the half court mark. As she bounce passed the ball to Sidney Cooks at the top of the key it become clear the Pirates were holding out for the final shot of the game.

Park-Lane then drew the defender to the bench-side of the court before accepting a hand-off at the top of the key and dribble-driving towards the basket. With five seconds remaining in the game she swung the ball over to junior forward Mya Bembry, who sunk a mid-range jumper with 1.9 seconds remaining in the clock.

The Bluejays would not have time to recover from a 66-65 Pirates lead. As the buzzer sounded, Park-Lane ran off the court and embraced her family in a hug. Seton Hall celebrated their 11th win in 12 games and advanced to the semis.

When asked about the gutsy move to hold the ball for the last shot, Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella was honest that it was not an easy decision.

“We debated it for a while. I’m one of those [people] who likes to shoot early so we can extend the game. But just the way this game was going and having no timeouts left, I said let’s just hold for the last shot,” Bozzella said.

Sidney Cooks, who assisted the game-winning shot, understand what it means to battle with her teammates when the season is on the line in March. Throughout the game she and her teammates maintained a calm approach even when the game felt like it was slipping away.

“Those are my sisters. I mean, we’ve got each other’s back at all times. So, yeah, it got a little chippy, but we were focused on us. We wanted to win this game so bad. We wanted to advance,” Cooks said.

Semis are set

The five-seed Marquette Golden Eagles will take on the one-seed Connecticut Huskies in Sunday’s first semifinal game (Sunday, March 6 at 3 pm ET). Following that game the six-seed Seton Hall Pirates will look to keep their momentum when they face the two-seed Villanova Wildcats (Sunday, March 6 at 5:30 pm ET).

More information about the tournament can be found at the 2022 BIG EAST tournament web page.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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