NEW YORK (AP)With the regular-season champs in danger of a quick knockout at the Big East Tournament, Tyler Kolek wouldn’t let it happen.
The conference player of the year scored all 19 of his points after halftime, including the tiebreaking free throws with 15.8 seconds left in overtime, and No. 6 Marquette rallied for a 72-70 victory against scrappy St. John’s in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper added 16 points, several on highlight-reel dunks, and the top-seeded Golden Eagles (26-6) advanced to play 11th-ranked UConn in the first semifinal Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The fourth-seeded Huskies held off No. 5 seed Providence, 73-66.
“We faced a lot of adversity today, and the guys stared down the adversity. They stayed connected,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said.
Kolek also had nine rebounds, six assists and two steals in his team’s largest comeback victory of the season.
“I feel like it’s our resiliency. That’s what we’re about,” Prosper said.
Marquette has won seven straight and 12 of 13, reaching the Big East semifinals for the fourth time overall and first since 2019.
But this one was anything but easy in a back-and-forth battle.
“I wouldn’t say we’re inexperienced anymore just because of everything we’ve gone through this year, all the experiences we’ve had, all the close games we’ve won and lost,” said Kolek, a left-handed point guard. “And that’s just made us better. I think coming into the postseason we’re as prepared as we can be.”
The Golden Eagles, who trailed by 14 late in the first half, turned up their defensive intensity to avoid an upset. They escaped when Posh Alexander’s good look at a 3-pointer for St. John’s glanced off the front rim at the overtime buzzer.
Oso Ighodaro had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Marquette, making several key plays down the stretch. Kam Jones added 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
Dylan Addae-Wusu and David Jones each scored 16 to lead eighth-seeded St. John’s (18-15), which beat No. 9 seed Butler 76-63 in the first round Wednesday.
Although the Red Storm have won a Big East Tournament game in six of the past seven years, St. John’s still hasn’t reached the semifinals since winning the school’s third championship in 2000 – even though the event is held on one of its home courts.
Addae-Wusu, a major thorn in Marquette’s side during all three meetings this season, scored nine straight Red Storm points down the stretch and 11 of their last 14 in regulation.
His layup tied it 61-all with 4.6 seconds remaining, aided by a terrific screen from big man Joel Soriano.
Kolek scored seven of Marquette’s 11 points in the extra period – five at the free-throw line.
“I thought he took over,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said.
St. John’s was 0 for 7 from the field in OT, getting all nine of its points at the foul line.
Soriano finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for his 25th double-double this season, most in the nation. But he hobbled off with an apparent leg injury with 3.9 seconds to go in OT following a scramble for an offensive rebound, and the senior center wasn’t on the floor for the Red Storm’s final play.
“What a game. Just proud of our guys,” Anderson said. “The guys are hurting in there right now.”
St. John’s: It was another heartbreaking Big East quarterfinal defeat for the underdog Red Storm, who led second-seeded eventual champion Villanova by 17 in the second half last year before losing by one. St. John’s also lost in overtime in the 2021 quarterfinals, to Seton Hall.
Marquette: The top seed for the first time, Marquette has never been to the Big East championship game since joining the league in 2005. … Improved to 6-0 against St. John’s in this event.
Kolby King’s career high was five points before the freshman guard scored eight straight off the bench – including a pair of 3s – during a 16-0 run that helped St. John’s open a 34-20 lead late in the first half.
St. John’s guard Andre Curbelo missed his third consecutive game in concussion protocol. The junior transfer from Illinois is averaging 9.6 points and a team-high 4.4 assists per game. … Red Storm reserve Rafael Pinzon, suspended indefinitely, sat out his sixth straight game.
St. John’s: Following a rocky season, Anderson said his team would like to play in the NIT if invited. St. John’s hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament under Anderson, leading to speculation about his job security after four years at the helm. He said he would definitely like to be back. “Without a doubt. I look forward to this team, guys,” Anderson said.
Marquette: Split two regular-season meetings with UConn. The Golden Eagles haven’t lost since an 87-72 setback Feb. 7 at Connecticut.
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