NEW YORK (AP) — Tyler Kulick and No. 6 Marquette raced to a huge lead and never looked back, as they beat No. 15 Xavier 65-51 on Saturday night to win the Big East Championship for the first time.
Big East Player of the Year Kulick tallied 20 points and eight rebounds as the top-seeded Golden Eagles (28-6) dominated the Big East final bringing Midwest flavor to Madison Square Garden.
Coach Shaka Smart’s surprise squad would head to the NCAA Tournament with a nine-game winning streak after Marquette’s debut in the Big East championship game resulted in one of his best performances in a sparkling season.
Kolek’s steal and catch made it 51-27 with 14:12 remaining. Less than a minute later, after two Golden Eagles offensive rebounds, David Joplin scored a corner kick 3 to double second seed Xavier (25-9).
Joplin finished with 12 points. Kolik was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Adam Kunkel scored 12 points to lead the Knights, who snapped a five-game winning streak.
It was the first Big East title game since the conference dropped football in 2013 to have none of its longtime members appear in the Northeast.
However, the Milwaukee school (Marquette, who joined in 2005) and the Cincinnati school (Xavier, who joined in 2013) filled The Garden for the first vs. 2 in a Big East tournament final in 19 years.
It looked like a 1-16 NCAA Tournament game for a while.
Marquette jumped out to a 21-4 lead, never to fall back.
In a particularly impressive 2 1/2 minutes, Stevie Mitchell made a layup 3, Kulick popped off the screen to make another 3, Cam Jones got a reverse layup after a great hesitating move on the baseline and Kulik converted a layup that gave up and went with Oso Ighodaro.
At that point, Marquette was leading 33-10 with 7:02 left in the first half and the Golden Eagles had not yet scored a turnover.
The Knights responded 14-5 to end the period, but with their fans chanting “We, Mar-quette!” The Golden Eagles lead 39-24.
Marquette’s only previous league championship title was as a member of Conference USA in 1997.
Twenty-six years later, the Golden Eagles were able to off the bench at the last minute of the Big East championship game and their fans were finally able to make Madison Square Garden feel at home.
The Big Picture
Xavier: The Knights played what coach Sean Miller called one of their best two-way games of the season in Friday night’s semifinals against Creighton. Less than 24 hours later, they’ve done almost no good. Xavier shot 34% from the field, forced only four turnovers and held 12 points under his previous season low. The Knights fell 0-2 in their Big East Championship games.
Marquette: Smart, who led VCU to the Final Four but never found a consistent winning formula in Texas, led a team that was picked to finish ninth in the Big East in the preseason coaches’ poll in perhaps his best season since Dwyane Wade led Marquette to (a) Final Four in 2003.
Xavier: Miller will return the Knights to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles will make their second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and earn a No. 2 seed.
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