Around the Big East: Big East Baller Update No. 6

St. John’s Dylan Addae-Wusu (5) inbounds the ball to Rasheem Dunn (3) as Villanova’s Caleb Daniels (14) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Tom Brady won a Super Bowl outside of New England, LeBron won a championship outside of the East, the Lightning won the Cup in Canada against an American team and the Dodgers won the World Series in Texas against a Florida team. This year has gotten so weird that bluebloods such as UNC, Duke, Kentucky and Kansas are not in the AP Top 25.  

Despite all the oddities, the Big East continues to dominate, with at least five, if not six, teams contending for the Big Dance. Who will surge into the madness and who will have to go to the NIT? Let’s dive right in and find out. 

Writer’s Note: Big shoutout to last week’s article writer Jacob Sondik for his incredible debut at the Daily Campus. 

Player of the Week 

Sandro Mamukelashvili – Seton Hall 

Rookie of the Week 

Posh Alexander – St. John’s 

Team(s) of the Week 

St. John’s and Georgetown 

Butler vs. Marquette (Feb. 2): A lot closer than you think 

If you  compare the two teams on paper, you would expect a blowout by Marquette, but that was not the case. Down as much as 17 early in the second half, the Bulldogs rallied to be down only by single digits in the final minute of the game. 

But the best was yet to come as Dawson Garcia followed up on a pair of free throws to give the Golden Eagles a seven-point lead. However, Bo Hodges and Jair Bolden scored five points in ten seconds to make the game a three-point affair. Not long after, Koby McEwen went 1-2 from the free- throw line which gave the Bulldogs a chance to equalize the game. It almost happened, but Bolden missed a 3-point shot at the death to give Marquette the win 70-67. 

Scoring was relatively balanced on both sides, as McEwen and DJ Carton had 18 points each while Garcia was not far behind with 14. Butler had Chuck Harris score 16 off the bench while Hodges finished with a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds. Although they made only one out of every three 3-point shots, Marquette converted 61.5% of all field goals throughout the game. Their ability to shoot 62.1% from the free- throw line also helped as they held the offensive advantage for most of the game. Butler, meanwhile, was outmatched in most categories except for 3-point shooting, where they went 43.5% from beyond the arc. Both teams are dangerous for their ability to keep the game close and prevent a blowout from really happening. Even if you have the advantage on both sides of the court, good luck trying to win by more than 20 points. 

Villanova vs. St. John’s (Feb. 3): How about them Johnnies? 

St. John’s Julian Champagnie (2) shoots a 3-pointer over Villanova’s Collin Gillespie (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The St John’s Red Storm have been the hottest team in the Big East, if not all of college basketball. Their tournament resume has continued to build with this statement win over Villanova, as St. John’s dominated the floor after taking a 20-19 lead in the first half. The Red Storm made sure Villanova could not lead again by turning a three-point halftime lead into a 15-point lead halfway into the second half. From there, the two teams went back-and-forth as free throws, layups, and jumpers were made left and right. But once the dust settled, the Johnnies needed only a few free throws in the final minute from Rasheem Dunn and Julian Champagnie to upset the No. 3 Wildcats 70-59 on Long Island.  

Although they let Jeremiah Robinson-Earl secure a double-double with 17 rebounds and 14 points, the Red Storm did an incredible job limiting some of the Wildcats’ other stars, such as Collin Gillespie (to four points) and Jermaine Samuels (two points). The only other Wildcat in double figures was Caleb Daniels with 16 points. The Red Storm, meanwhile, had Alexander score 16, Champagnie score 14, and Vince Cole earn 12 points. 

St. John’s had the advantage the whole way, converting 41.9% of all shots and shooting 43.5% from beyond the arc. The Wildcats were able to get ahead with 42 rebounds, but their defense had no answers for the balanced attack of the Red Storm. The Red Storm are indeed a dark horse team that will surprise many serious contenders in the weeks to come. 

Creighton vs. Marquette (Feb. 6): Revenge is a dish best served in the sky 

You know how Marquette upset Creighton early in the season? Yeah, they nearly did it again on Saturday. To be fair and frank, Marquette was down by as much as 12 in the second half, but Carton was able to keep his team in the fight through a series of incredible three-point shots, especially one that landed with 34 seconds left in the game to cut Creighton’s lead to two. Marcus Zegarowski made the first free throw with 23 seconds left but missed the second, giving the Golden Eagles a chance to tie the game.  

In that final drive, McEwen tried to tie it at the death, but he missed. Then Shareef Mitchell showed up at the right time to rebound the ball and secure a 71-68 win for Creighton. Coach Greg McDermott said after the game, “everybody in the building thought [Carton] was shooting it, and Reef did a great job of making him give that up.” 

This was Carton’s game the whole way as he finished with 16 points with help from Jamal Cain’s 14. Christian Bishop led the way for Creighton with 14 while Damien Jefferson and Zegarowski and 13 each. As a team, the Blue Jays dominated both offensively (48.3% shooting and 35.3% from three) and defensively (38 rebounds compared to the Eagles’ 26). Marquette has the potential to be a tournament team this season, they just need to finish strong on the road to stand a chance. 

Honorable mention: Georgetown vs. Creighton (Feb. 3): Apocalypse Now 

Georgetown forward Chudier Bile (4) makes a layup against Creighton in the second half during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/John Peterson)

What happened in this game requires a lot of explanation. Once the Hoyas got the lead in the first half against the Blue Jays, they never looked back. Despite making it a six-point game in the beginning of the final minute, Creighton could not catch up as Georgetown made a bunch of free throws towards the end to dethrone the ranked Bluejays by a score of 86-79. The two teams answered each other through both halves, but it was the Hoyas that got the upper hand. 

In describing his statement win of the season so far, head coach Patrick Ewing described, “We beat a ranked team, a great team, and they’re well coached and we didn’t back down.” On the other end though, McDermott commented, “We’ve been a pretty good team defensively and tonight that wasn’t the case.” 

The X-factors in this game were Denzel Mahoney and Jahvon Blair, who had 22 points that led their teams. Blair also got support from Chudier Bile’s 17 points and Jamarko Pickett’s 16 while Mahoney got help from Bishop’s double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds as well as Mitch Ballock’s 16. The Hoyas, who entered as one of the weaker shooting teams in the conference, shot 50%. They pulled ahead by shooting 47.6% from three and rebounding 34 times. Was this game a fluke game for the Bluejays’ stars as well as another turning point for the Hoyas? Only time will tell, but be on the look out because nothing is guaranteed. 

This week was solid in terms of continuing storylines and adding to some credible tournament resumes. As the Big East Tournament gets closer, we will have to look out to see where everyone finishes to predict how the tournament could play out. Hopefully, the Huskies can return to the top five within a few games and be considered serious Madness contenders once again. 

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