No. 10 Marquette holds off Providence 79-68 to reach back-to-back Big East championship games

No. 10 Marquette holds off Providence 79-68 to reach back-to-back Big East championship games

Kam Jones scored 23 points and Oso Ighodaro had 20 as No. 10 Marquette beat seventh-seeded Providence 79-68 on Friday night, withstanding a second-half surge by Devin Carter and advancing to the Big East Tournament championship game for the second straight year.

The third-seeded Golden Eagles (25-8) will face top seed and defending national champion UConn — and no doubt a Huskies heavy crowd — on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Marquette is looking to win back-to-back conference tournament championships after going more than two decades without one. The school’s only league tournament title before last year came in 1997 in Conference USA.

Carter, the Big East coaches’ pick for conference player of the year, scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half for Providence (21-13).

The Golden Eagles played their fifth straight game without point guard Tyler Kolek (oblique), last season’s Big East player of the year. They seem to be getting the hang of it, winning the last three.

Marquette coach Shaka Smart said this week Kolek has been practicing and expects him back for the NCAA Tournament next week. Smart also has declined to rule out Kolek for this tournament.

Ighodaro, the 6-foot-11 potential first-round NBA draft pick, was held to a season-low four points in in Marquette’s overtime victory Thursday night in the quarterfinals against Villanova.

The senior scored the first basket of the game against Providence with a jumper in the lane, had 12 points by halftime and was in the middle of a 17-2 run that put Marquette in control in the first half.

Marquette’s lead was 14 when Chase Ross made a 3-pointer with 11:36 left in the second half, but Carter and the Friars made a big run of their own, powered by a Garden crowd packed with their fans — who were none too pleased with the way their physical and gritty team was being officiated.

Providence cut the lead to 68-65 with 4:36 remaining when Carter — who had four fouls at the time — drove hard to the basket and banked home a layup that sparked “MVP!” chants from Friars fans.

A spinning move in the lane by Jones bumped Marquette’s lead back to four with 3:11 left, and less than a minute later Ighodaro’s two free throws made it a six-point margin.

Providence got it down to four again, but Jones and Ross scored going to the basket sandwiched around a Friars turnover to seal the victory in the final minute.

Providence Friars vs. Marquette Golden Eagles Big East Tournament Highlights | CBB on FOX

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Marquette lost twice to UConn during the last seven games of the regular season, including 74-67 at home without Kolek on March 6.

The Friars came to MSG in need of a win or two — or three or four — to bolster their chances to make the NCAA Tournament. Providence will go back to Rhode Island and hope for the best from the selection committee on Sunday.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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