No. 10 Marquette holds off Providence 79-68 to reach back-to-back Big East championship games

NEW YORK (AP) — Facing a raucous crowd that made it feel like a road game and a fired-up bunch of Providence Friars, Kam Jones, Oso Ighodaro and No. 10 Marquette responded with the poise of a champion.

And now the Golden Eagles have a chance to make it back-to-back Big East Tournament titles.

Jones scored 23 points and Ighodaro had 20 as Marquette — playing without injured star Tyler Kolek — beat seventh-seeded Providence 79-68 on Friday night, withstanding a second-half surge by Devin Carter to advance to the final for a second straight year.

“I thought the building was frantic,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought it affected us at times. I thought our guys' poise down the stretch in the midst of that kind of chaotic environment, it's a huge part of why we won.”

The third-seeded Golden Eagles (25-8) will face top seed and defending national champion UConn — and no doubt a Huskies heavy crowd — on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

“We know there’s a lot of things we’re going to need to do better if we want to be able to win tomorrow night,” Smart said.

Marquette is looking to win consecutive conference tournament championships after going more than two decades without one. The school's only league tournament title before last year came in 1997 in Conference USA.

Carter, the Big East coaches' pick for conference player of the year, scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half for Providence (21-13).

“I knew after the first half, I didn’t really do too much to help my team try to get a victory,” Carter said. “So I just looked at myself in the mirror second half and we had a talk in the locker room and I just decided to be more aggressive.”

The Golden Eagles played their fifth straight game without Kolek (oblique), last season's Big East player of the year. They seem to be getting the hang of it, winning the last three.

“The first thing (Kolek) said in the locker room, he grabbed me and said, ‘How about I play tomorrow?’” Smart said.

Smart said Kolek has not been cleared by doctors and the priority remains having him ready to go for the NCAA Tournament next week.

Ighodaro, the 6-foot-11 potential first-round NBA draft pick, was held to a season-low four points in Marquette's overtime victory Thursday night in the quarterfinals against Villanova.

The senior scored the first basket of the game against Providence with a jumper in the lane, had 12 points by halftime and was in the middle of a 17-2 run that put Marquette in control in the first half.

Marquette's lead was 14 when Chase Ross made a 3-pointer with 11:36 left in the second half, but Carter and the Friars made a big run of their own, powered by a Garden crowd packed with their fans — who were none too pleased with the way their physical and gritty team was being officiated.

“These games are really hard to officiate, I would imagine, because there’s a whole lot of jostling for position, if you will,” Smart said.

Providence cut the lead to 68-65 with 4:36 remaining when Carter — who had four fouls at the time — drove hard to the basket for a layup that sparked “MVP!” chants.

“I thought we did a good job responding,” Ighodaro said. “We kind of got into the back and forth and I got out of control a little bit. But I thought we did a good job of resetting and responding and coming together as a team and just really scrapping it out.”

A spinning move in the lane by Jones bumped Marquette's lead back to four with 3:11 left, and less than a minute later Ighodaro's two free throws made it a six-point margin.

Providence got it down to four again, but Jones and Ross scored going to the basket sandwiched around a Friars turnover to seal the victory in the final minute.

UP NEXT

Marquette lost twice to UConn during the last seven games of the regular season, including 74-67 at home without Kolek on March 6.

The Friars came to MSG in need of wins to bolster their chances to make the NCAA Tournament. Providence will go back to Rhode Island and hope for the best from the selection committee on Sunday.

“I hate that our fate is out of our hands, but we've got a little less than 48 hours to wait and see where our next destination is,” coach Kim English said.

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