The Marquette Golden Eagles narrowly defeated the The DePaul Blue Demons 72-69 at Madison Square Garden for the first round of the Big East Tournament March 7.
The longtime conference opponents, with 150 regular-season matchups, met for the first time in conference tournament play Wednesday night.
Marquette ran the first half relying on small ball. The Eagles had 14 points in the paint and converted seven second-chance points. Both teams attempted 27 shots at the half, but Marquette converted 14 to DePaul’s nine.
The total amount of fouls for both teams in the first half was 21. Marquette committed 12; DePaul nine.
The Eagles lead by 12 at the halftime whistle 39-27; Rowsey had 16 of their points. With three guards and one forward on the floor they were losing in the rebound category, but against DePaul’s lineup they swiped five steals and forced nine turnovers by the Blue Demons.
The Blue Demons were coming off an under .500 season with an 11-19 record. The Golden Eagles finished the regular season 18-12 and were expected to get this win.
“We have a lot of respect for DePaul,” said Coach Steve Wojciechowski. “But, our guys found a way to win, and that’s what this time of year is all about.”
Andrew Rowsey opened up the second half of scoring for Marquette with a drive to the basket and a foul. The senior finished with a team high of 25 points, six rebounds and three assists. He says this stat line isn’t because he is on the back-end of his college career.
“It’s more of just what the game presented me,” Rowsey said. “I just took what I saw and I made it.”\
While Marquette lead most of the game by 10 points, the game got interesting early in the second half when DePaul’s Eli Cain drove in on Rowsey for two points and a foul making it a one-point game. But Max Strus came back up court hit a trey with 6 minutes to go to make it a two-point game. DePaul rebounds after a rimmed-out 3 and Strus slips off a screen and drives for a dunk. Tie Game.
The game came right down to the wire. A ball went out of bounds and was retrieved and appeared to be knocked off a Marquette player, but after review, they gave Marquette the possession.
Marquette’s Cain fouled Sam Hauser, sending him to the line. He knocked both down making it a two possession game.
Strus ran it up court for a pressured three, making it a one-point game. The next possession saw good defense by DePaul forcing a turnover and the Blue Demons called a timeout with 11.5 seconds to go. Then Strus got open for a three and missed just short of the net, bouncing off the front of the rim.
“They got a little confused with their communication and left Max wide open,” said DePaul head coach Dave Leitao. “Whether it was the last shot of the game, 10 seconds to go…That’s the shot that anybody that’s been around us would have been happy to take.”
DePaul was forced to intentionally foul Rowsey and send him to the line. He knocked both down to seal the win for Marquette.
The Golden Eagles face No. 2 seed Villanova Wildcats March 8 at 7 p.m.