Around the Big East WBB: UConn claims Big East crown

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UConn guard Christyn Williams (13) shoots over Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) during the first half of a college basketball game in the Sweet Sixteen round of the women’s NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Saturday, March 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

From Friday to Monday, members of the Big East Conference competed in the annual Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena to determine a champion for this year’s basketball season. 

Games began with the first round of matchups on Friday. There, No. 9 Georgetown beat No. 8 Providence 68-55No. 7 St. John’s defeated No. 10 Xavier 76-69 and No. 6 Seton Hall took down No. 11 Butler 59-39. 

Teams that won their first round matchups advanced to play the higher seeds in the quarterfinal round on Saturday. There, No. 5 Marquette won over No. 4 DePaul 105-85, No. 2 Villanova beat St. John’s 76-52, Seton Hall edged No. 3 Creighton 66-65 and top-seeded UConn defeated Georgetown 84-38. 

Heading into Sunday, only four teams remained. In the first matchup of the day, UConn defeated Marquette 71-51, led offensively by Evina Westbrook, who scored 14 points off of the bench. Christyn Williams and Dorka Juhasz also chipped in with 13 points apiece. Later, Villanova won over Seton Hall, 64-55, as the team’s star, Maddy Siegrist, erupted for 24 points and 14 rebounds in the winning effort. 

On Monday, No. 1 UConn and No. 2 Villanova met in the championship game to determine a tournament winner. In their previous matchup on Feb. 9, the Wildcats upset the Huskies 72-69 to hand Connecticut what would be their only conference loss of the season while also snapping its 169-game conference winning streak. However, it was UConn that took early control in this matchup and didn’t squander its lead, dominating Villanova and ending the night with a 70-40 victory. The Huskies received double-digit scoring efforts from Westbrook, Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, while Villanova’s Siegrist led all scorers with 16 points. With the win, UConn was named e Big East champion for the 20th time in program history. 

At the conclusion of the championship game, the Big East announced the player selections for the tournament’s most outstanding player award and the all-tournament team. 

Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Christyn Williams, UConn 

Connecticut’s Williams was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after averaging 12.3 points across the three games, including nine in the championship finale. A senior from Little Rock, Arkansas, Williams has been considered one of UConn’s premier leaders and has garnered praise for both her hard work and passion for her team. When asked how she felt about being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Williams told SYN’s Maria Marino, “I’m super honored. I feel like a lot of us on the team could have gotten it.”  

The Seton Hall warm up for an NCAA college basketball game against Connecticut on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Storrs, Conn. (David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP)

All-Tournament Team: 

Aaliyah Edwards, UConn 

Over three tournament games, Edwards averaged 11.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, including a season-high 11 rebounds in the semifinals versus Marquette. In the championship game, Edwards scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, to go with six rebounds, two assists and two steals in what was a solid all-around performance for the sophomore. 

Evina Westbrook, UConn 

Despite coming off of the bench in all three of her team’s tournament games, Westbrook was among Connecticut’s top contributors with scoring totals of 14 and 13 points in both the semifinal and championship rounds, respectively. A senior from Salem, Oregon, Westbrook shot over 54% from the field in the tournament, which included a 45% mark from behind the three-point arc. 

Maddy Siegrist, Villanova 

After establishing herself as one of the elite players in college basketball, Siegrist once again put on a scoring clinic in this year’s Big East tournament, averaging 21.3 points per game over three total games played. This year’s Big East Player of the Year had efforts of 24 points in a quarterfinal round win over St. John’s and 24 points in a semifinal round win over Seton Hall. Siegrist also chipped in a team-high 16 points in a losing effort against a stout Connecticut defense in the championship game. 

Lauren Park-Lane, Seton Hall 

Park-Lane proved why she deserved her unanimous selection to this year’s Big East First Team by averaging 19.6 points per game over Seton Hall’s three tournament games. After a first round victory over Butler, Park-Lane was a vital piece in the Pirates’ hard-fought quarterfinal round victory over Creighton, in which she dished out the game-winning assist to put Seton Hall ahead by one with time winding down. She also scored 24 points on 7-for-14 shooting in a losing semifinal effort against Villanova. 

Karissa McLaughlin, Marquette 

A graduate student from Fort Wayne, Indiana, McLaughlin scored 18 points in a winning effort versus DePaul in the quarterfinal rounds, and 15 points in a losing effort in the semifinals versus UConn, respectively. Her tournament average of 16.5 points per game tied her for the team lead with Jordan King. McLaughlin was a key contributor in the game versus DePaul in which Marquette scored 105 points as a team, by far the most by any team in this year’s tournament. 

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