Wed. Final: UConn 93, Marquette 82
By By Kyle Dlabay
With Dominic James out for nearly the entire game, No. 8 Marquette fought No. 2 Connecticut in a Big East battle but came up short. Connecticut used an 11-0 run late in the game and a career-high 36 points from A.J. Price to beat the Golden Eagles 93-82 at the Bradley Center.
"I thought our guys absolutely competed their guts out," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams. "Even though we lost, I don't know if I've ever been more proud of their effort in a loss or a win for that matter."
James has been Marquette's starting point guard for every game during his four-year career expect one. Now, his career at Marquette is over after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. James suffered the injury before the first media timeout in the first half. He is now the all-time leader in games played at Marquette with 128 passing Ousmane Barro.
The Golden Eagles (23-5, 12-3) were holding onto a 74-73 lead with 6:50 left in the game at the second to last media timeout. Connecticut (26-2, 14-2) then had the final big run of the game which included three three-point plays, two by Stanley Robinson.
Price not only had a career-high in points but also hit eight threes which bested his career-high in that category. The biggest triple for Price came with 1:12 left in the game which put Connecticut up 89-81. That was knock out punch the Huskies were looking for on that possession.
Despite not having James, the Golden Eagles were in the game the almost entire way with 26 points from Jerel McNeal while Wesley Matthews added. McNeal scored 21 of his points in the second half who went back forth with Price who had 20 points in the final 20 minutes.
"A.J. put a performance I thought I've only seen by some of our great ones," said Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun referring to former Huskies Richard Hamilton, Ray Allen and Ben Gordon.
Calhoun picked up win number 800 in his career Wednesday night. He is the seventh coach to get to 800 wins.
"I can't believe just how well we came together as a team," Calhoun said.
The game seemed to be won by the Huskies inside with Marquette getting outrebounded 46-26 by Connecticut. The Huskies outscored Marquette 26-4 in second chance points and had 16 offensive boards.
Hasheem Thabeet did what he usually does with 14 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. With Jeff Adrien missing in action for most of the game, Robinson stepped up with a season-high 19 points and ten rebounds. He even knocked his first three-pointer this year after starting the season 0-15. Adrien is the Huskies' leading scorer on the season and he scored just two points.
Maurice Acker filled in for James for the rest of the game. Acker played the most minutes since he's been at Marquette with 33. He also went 2-2 from three-point range and had four assists with zero turnovers. Acker was 1-14 from long range in Big East play coming into Wednesday's game.
Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 12 points while Lazar Hayward was also in double figures with 15 points.
The first half also had some big runs with Connecticut getting the bigger one at 16-0. Marquette scored eight straight before that to go up 28-22. Early in the second half it appeared that the Huskies were going to put away the Golden Eagles as they led 59-48 after another three by Price. But, Marquette went on a 12-0 run to get the lead back at 60-59.
"All the runs start and stop whenever we want to play defense," Butler said.
The Golden Eagles shot just 33 percent in the half while the Huskies were 55 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. In the second half, Marquette shot 54 percent while Connecticut was 43 percent. However, the Huskies made one more field goal because they took nine more shots due to offensive rebounds.
Marquette's gauntlet continues as they take on No. 6 Louisville on the road at Freedom Hall Sunday morning at 11. The Golden Eagles are now tied for third place in the Big East with No. 1 Pittsburgh at 12-3. Marquette will take the Panthers next Wednesday on the road as well. Senior day for the Golden Eagles is one week from Saturday against Syracuse at the Bradley Center.
With the win, the Huskies move one half game ahead of Louisville for first place in the Big East. Connecticut hosts Notre Dame this Saturday in Storrs.
Notes: The Connecticut victory snapped Marquette's 17-game home winning streak. Wednesday's game was the first between two top-10 teams in the history of the Bradley Center. The attendance was announced at 19,091 making it the biggest crowd ever to see a college basketball game in Wisconsin. It was the first time the Huskies scored 70 points since the end of last month. The last time these two teams played in Milwaukee was Marquette's first ever Big East game with the Golden Eagles defeating the No. 2 Huskies 94-79.