March 4, 2022 

Inside the BIG EAST tournament: Day one takeaways

Updates from Uncasville

UNCASVILLE, CT – Day one of the 2022 BIG EAST tournament featured the bottom half of the bracket fighting for a coveted spot in the quarterfinals. Six teams took the court at Mohegan Sun Arena to kick off the conference tournament. The Next was there to capture key moments from day one.

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Game 1: No. 9 Georgetown vs No. 8 Providence

Georgetown beats Providence, 68-55

“I live by the quote, ‘If you’re juiceful you’re useful; if your juiceless you’re useless,'” graduate transfer Milan Bolden-Harris said to the press room after Georgetown’s first-round win over Providence in the BIG EAST tournament.

For just the second time in eight BIG EAST tournament meetings, Georgetown had more juice than Providence. The Hoyas were propelled to victory by Bolden-Morris, who led the squad with 18 points in 38 minutes played. She was also the vocal leader for the nine-seed.

“That’s my job,” Bolden-Harris said. “I’ve always tried to keep communicating, keep talking, be the hot man in the group. I’m the loudest in practice, I’m the loudest here. I don’t think that’s going to change much.”

Starting midway through the second quarter and extending into the third quarter Georgetown went on a 33-2 run. Providence didn’t falter, though, getting back into the game behind the sharp-shooting of freshman Emily Archibald.

“[I] was really proud of our group in a tough situation. [They] kept fighting. Made it an interesting game. And kept
competing and stuck together in what was a difficult situation,” said Providence head coach Jim Crowley.

Like she has all season, junior guard Janai Crooms brought toughness and resilience to the Friars on both ends of the floor.

“We’ve asked [Crooms] to do everything — defend the best player, rebound, bring the ball up,” coach Crowley said. “The big part, at the end, she was staying out there, communicating, battling. And her teammates saw that. And, again, set a really good tone as we move forward with the program.”

Next up for the Hoyas is the one-seed Connecticut Huskies (Saturday, March 5 at 12 p.m. ET). When asked how one prepares for UConn freshman and D.C.-area native Azzi Fudd, Georgetown head coach James Howard was blunt.

“You don’t, to be honest with you. You don’t. You don’t. Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd, you’ve got to go out there and
you’ve got to keep, for us, we’ve got to keep everything in front. We’ve got to take away penetration lanes,” Howard said.

The Huskies defeated the Hoyas, 90-49, on Feb. 20.

Game 2: No. 10 Xavier vs No. 7 St. John’s

St. John’s defeats Xavier, 76-69

St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella lamented that the problems his team faced through the first three quarters of the Red Storm’s first-round game against Xavier were “probably something [he] could describe for about a week.”

The seven-seed Red Storm trailed Xavier by as many as eight points (59-51) early in the fourth quarter. St. John’s would mount a gritty comeback, though, to advance to the quarterfinals.

“I’ll say this, there was a point in the fourth where one of our players led our huddle and I think probably changed the momentum of the game. And so when you’ve got players like that who can lead in those moments like Emma Nolan did today, it was special to watch.”

Whatever was said in that huddle changed the energy of the Red Storm for the remainder of the game. Players on the bench were jumping up and down, waving towels, being told to settle down by the referees. Assistant coaches pounded the floor. St. John’s would end the game on a 25-10 scoring run.

Though St. John’s was led by four players scoring in double digits, it was senior Rayven Peeples (16 points, 11 rebounds) who brought the heat for the Red Storm.

“She had conviction today. She caught the ball and scored. There was no hesitation in what she was doing,” coach Tartamella said. “She knew exactly where she was. She knew exactly what she wanted to do to get the and-one.”

A young Xavier team ends their season poised for improvement next year. The Musketeers roster included seven new players this season.

“I’m still proud of our kids’ effort. We’re young, as I said in that locker room,” said Xavier head coach Melanie Moore. “I said only [Ayanna] Townsend is not here next year. This was by far the best game of the season. This needs to be momentum moving into next year.”

St. John’s will square off against the two-seed Villanova Wildcats in the quarterfinals (Saturday, March 5 at 7 p.m. ET).

Game 3: No. 11 Butler v No. 6 Seton Hall

Seton Hall defeats Butler, 58-39

The Seton Hall Pirates shook off a sluggish first half to end Butler’s season and advance to the quarterfinals. After entering the locker room tied 24-24, Seton Hall held the Bulldogs to just 15 points in the second half to run away with a 58-39 victory.

“For us, it was a game we needed. We needed to be challenged,” said Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella. “We needed to fight through adversity. Clearly offensively we struggled and we missed some shots we normally would make. And they made a couple of shots that tested our mettle.”

The Pirates now enter a quarterfinal match-up against Creighton having won 10 of their last 11 games. Their last loss was a double-overtime 91-97 heartbreaker to Creighton on Feb. 20.

Coach Bozzella is well-aware of the challenge that lies ahead of his team against the Bluejays.

“I mean, no one has more respect [from] me than Creighton,” he said. “One of the things we have to do is just come out, play with some confidence. They’re good. They’ve knocked us out of the playoffs last year, knocked us out a couple of years ago. They’re good. They understand how to play against Seton Hall, and they played really well against us. And we need to play well.”

For junior Lauren Park-Lane, who has been a problem for BIG EAST foes all season, there is only one goal: win. She led the way for the Pirates against Butler with 21 points, including three 3-pointers.

“We all have a common goal, all my teammates,” Park-Lane said. “We all want to win. We all want to make it to Monday and win on Monday. When you share that with 14 other girls, the sky’s the limit.”

Seton Hall and Creighton will be featured as the nightcap to tomorrow’s (Saturday, March 5) BIG EAST tournament quarterfinals, facing off at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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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