Big East top seed Marquette opens tourney play vs. St. John’s


During the past two-plus months, Marquette piled up plenty of points en route to an unexpected first outright Big East regular-season title.

Perhaps no opponent knows about Marquette’s offensive prowess more than St. John’s.

Top-seeded Marquette seeks another big showing from its offense and another chance to possibly improve its seeding for the NCAA Tournament when the sixth-ranked Golden Eagles face the Red Storm on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament in New York.

Marquette is seeking its first trip to the semifinals since 2019, when it routed St. John’s 86-54 before losing to Seton Hall.

The Golden Eagles (25-6) earned the top seed by averaging 81 points per game and shooting 49.5 percent from the floor, with both figures placing second in the league. After being picked ninth in the league’s preseason poll, Marquette heads into the tournament with six straight wins.

“We went into the season wanting to win for us,” Marquette leading scorer Kam Jones said, “but we didn’t forget us being picked ninth. That was always in the back of our minds. That was always motivating.”

Golden Eagles coach Shaka Smart added, “I think that it’s really easy in your mind to feel like something should happen or could happen or it might happen or you’d like it to happen. But for this team to go 17-3 (in conference games) is very unlikely relative to pretty much what anybody thought this time last year, the summer, the fall, even starting conference play.”

The Golden Eagles were 9-1 when scoring at least 80 in conference games, including both wins against the Red Storm.

On Jan. 3 in New York, Marquette turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a 96-85 win when it outscored the Red Storm 55-37 in the second half. On Saturday, the Golden Eagles held on for a 96-94 victory over St. John’s in Milwaukee despite nearly blowing a 16-point lead.

Jones scored 23 points to lead all five Marquette starters in double figures, including Tyler Kolek, the Big East Player of the Year. Kolek contributed 18 points and 10 assists for his third straight double-double.

The Red Storm (18-14) advanced to a third meeting with Marquette by leading for the final 37 minutes and by as many as 21 in a 76-63 win over Butler on Wednesday. St. John’s is looking for its first semifinal appearance since winning the tournament in 2000 and is hoping for another big day from Joel Soriano.

Soriano notched his NCAA-high 24th double-double by collecting 19 points and 15 rebounds. He led five Red Storm players in double figures, and he helped St. John’s produce a 53-28 margin on the glass.

Soriano also logged double-doubles in the two games against Marquette, getting 22 points and 13 rebounds in the first meeting and then 14 and 11 on Saturday.

“We know Marquette,” Soriano said. “Marquette will come in and give us a great fight. They’re a very well-coached team. They demonstrated that.”

St. John’s coach Mike Anderson added, “They’re a very good basketball team. We have our work cut out for us.”

–Field Level Media

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