The Big East is hard to gauge after four weeks. On one hand, the unranked Marquette Golden Eagles take down the No. 6 Baylor Bears by 26. On the other hand, the No. 7 Creighton Blue Jays lose at home to unranked Nebraska by 10.
As much as I prefer a competitive conference (being good for March Madness bids), I hope we can find out how good it really is as soon as I find out where the UConn football team would go bowling. While Jim Mora and the Huskies prepare for the teal fields of the Myrtle Beach Bowl, let us cover some of the games that took place on hardwood floors.
Writer’s Note: Meant to bring this up last week, but does anyone want a PS5?
Player of the Week: Javan Johnson – DePaul
Freshman of the Week: Mark Armstrong – Villanova
No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 2 Texas (Dec. 1): The motional Midwest Bowl
There is an obligation to include any top 10 battle involving a Big East team because of how competitive the game is going to be. There was not much to cover in this contest however, despite the Longhorns winning a close one 72-67 at home.
The reason why is simple: the Blue Jays struggled to bury a 3-point shot. I have said it in seasons past, but this team lives and dies by the 3-pointer. Shooting 4-27 from long range while Baylor Scheierman making three of them will not cut it against any team.
Texas shot 4-19 from downtown, but emerged victorious because of a 19-point showing from Marcus Carr and 15 points from Tyrese Hunter. If both teams can adjust their 3-point abilities, they may be able to meet again late in March.
DePaul vs. Loyola Chicago (Dec. 3): The Breezy Wind Gusts Bowl
One overtime game did not seem to be enough for a partially depleted DePaul squad, so they got a second overtime game in the same city and in the same week. I say depleted because the Blue Demons were without studs such as Nick Ongenda and had only eight players play in the game.
The lack of depth affected DePaul early as the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, now in the A10, began the game on a 21-6 run and went into halftime leading by 13. But two threes form Umoja Gibson on three possessions to give the Blue Demons lead. DePaul led for most of the next six minutes, but two vicious dunks by Tom Welch and a scoreless final minute allowed the Ramblers to force overtime.
Loyola-Chicago grabbed the lead momentarily, but Johnson scoring DePaul’s first 10 points of overtime and Gibson garnering the last eight proved to be enough. What once looked like a fantasy became reality as the Blue Demons climbed all the way back for a 78-72 win.
The team shot 45% from the field, with Johnson scoring 27 points and Gibson finishing with 23. Jalen Terry was the only other DePaul player in double figures with 11 points. Kennedy led all Ramblers with 26 points while Welch nearly had a double-double with 13 points and seven boards. The Blue Demons fight tough, and even if the odds are heavily against them, head coach Tony Stubblefield will make sure the team does not quit until the final buzzer.
Wisconsin vs. Marquette (Dec. 3): “I woke up feeling the cheesiest coach!”
After taking out the Bears ranked No. 6 last Tuesday, Marquette hoped to add another Power 5 win to their strong resume while Wisconsin needed to recover following a home loss to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Even with Johnny Davis in the NBA, the Badgers ended the first half on a 6-0 run and went up by 11 at the intermission. Wisconsin held on to their lead until the Golden Eagles made them pay for a four-minute scoring drought as Stevie Mitchell made a go-ahead layup.
Chucky Hepburn tried to make sure that the Badgers avoided an embarrassing defeat with a go-ahead three, but a dunk by Oso Ighodaro brought overtime into the discussion. Both teams were tied halfway through the final minute as Kam Jones drained a critical three as part of a 5-0 run, but Max Klesmit added his name to the history books with a game-winning layup with less than five seconds to go. Marquette attempted to keep the game alive, but Tyler Wahl’s steal gave Wisconsin an 80-77 victory.
Jones led the way for the Golden Eagles with 26 while Prosper garnered 14 points. Hepburn led the Badgers with 19 points in 26 minutes while Wahl had 15 points and Klesmit scored 13. Both teams might not be ranked, but they could sneak their way to the upper echelon of the conference standings given their competitive nature.
South Carolina vs. Georgetown (Dec. 3): Capital Chickens Bowl
The Georgetown Hoyas hoped to recover after losing in the Big 12-Big East battle against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The South Carolina Gamecocks wanted to avoid losing another game in Washington D.C. after falling to the George Washington Colonials. Something had to give.
Georgetown had an 11-point lead at the break, but like their contest against the American Eagles, things slowly fell apart. After struggling to maintain their lead throughout the second half, Gregory Jackson II and Hayden Brown combined to snatch the lead with three minutes remaining. Primo Spears thought he had the game-winning basket with five seconds left, but Jay Heath’s foul sent Brown to the line, where he went 1-2 at the line. South Carolina nearly stole the game at the buzzer, but Jackson II’s shot missed and overtime proved to be necessary.
In a well-contested overtime period, Meechie Johnson drained the go-ahead three with 25 seconds to go that proved to be the difference. Brandon Murray and Spears’ attempted threes to force another overtime missed and South Carolina escaped Washington D.C. with a 74-71 win.
Jackson II led the Gamecocks with 22 points and eight rebounds while Brown had 16 points and eight boards. Spears looked impressive with 18 points, but it was Heath’s 23 points that led the Hoyas. Even though Georgetown has not played their best brand of basketball in the second half, having games like these will only improve their chances of winning their first Big East game in two seasons.
Conference play begins on Wednesday when the DePaul Blue Demons take on the St. John’s Red Storm at Carnesecca Arena. This game will not prove much, but whether this year’s conference will be as competitive as last season’s is still to be determined. With teams looking both really good and really bad, a trip to Florida may help the conference find consistency as conference play begins to heat up.