Marquette beats DePaul, Big East title share clinched

Sean Jones dribbles against Umoja Gibson of the DePaul Blue Demons at Fiserv Forum on Feb. 25. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Kam Jones and Tyler Kolek each scored 22 points while helping No. 10 Marquette clinch a share of its first Big East regular-season championship in a decade with a 90-84 victory over DePaul on Saturday night.

Kolek also had 14 assists as Marquette (23-6, 15-3) rolled to a 49-28 halftime lead and hung on after DePaul (9-20, 3-15) got close down the stretch. Marquette has won nine of its last 10, while DePaul has lost 10 straight.

DePaul cut Marquette’s lead to 78-72 on an Umoja Gibson 3-pointer with 3:18 remaining and got it down to four with 15 seconds left, but the Blue Demons couldn’t keep Kolek off the free-throw line in the closing minutes. Kolek was 9 of 10 on free-throw attempts in the final 2:04.

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This is Marquette’s first conference title in 2013, when the Golden Eagles shared the Big East crown with Georgetown and eventual national champion Louisville. The other Big East teams with a shot to win a share of the title are No. 16 Xavier (21-8, 13-5) and No. 20 Providence (20-8, 12-5).

The Golden Eagles close their Big East schedule by visiting Butler and hosting St. John’s. A win in either game would enable Marquette to win the title outright.

Not bad for a team that didn’t have a single preseason all-Big East selection and was picked by the league’s coaches to finish ninth out of 11 conference teams.

Jones, celebrating his 21st birthday, put Marquette ahead for good by sinking a pair of 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the game. He made four shots from beyond the arc in the first 5½ minutes and had a career-high six 3-pointers by halftime.

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Marquette shot 11 of 21 on 3-point attempts during a first half that featured 11 Kolek assists. The Golden Eagles were just 1 of 7 from beyond the arc in the second half, enabling DePaul to claw back into the game.

Gibson led DePaul with 20 points and eight assists. Nick Ongenda added 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Big picture

DePaul: The Blue Demons deserve credit for making this game competitive in the second half, but their losing streak still reached double digits. … DePaul was missing forward Yor Anei due to a hamstring injury. Philmon Gebrewhit didn’t play the second half. … One bright spot was the performance of Ongenda, who had season highs in points and rebounds. Ongenda was playing just his fourth game of the season after recovering from wrist surgery.

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Marquette: If the Golden Eagles play the way they did the first half, they can beat anyone in the country. But their second-half fade should serve as a lesson as they gear up for the NCAA Tournament. They might not have been able to survive that kind of late slump against a better opponent.

Poll implications

There’s at least a possibility Marquette could move into the top seven for the first time since the 1977-78 season. No. 6 Virginia, No. 7 Arizona and No. 8 Texas all lost this week.

Up next

DePaul: At No. 18 UConn on Wednesday.

Marquette: At Butler on Tuesday.