NCAA BK

Golden Eagles grab share of title

Marquette Golden Eagles mob guard Vander Blue (13) after scoring the winning basket against the St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden
The Golden Eagles mob Vander Blue (13) after he scores the winning basket in OT.
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NEW YORK (AP)

Marquette has the big trophy every school wants. That one was from the 1977 NCAA championship.

There's a new one to add. It was official Saturday when the 15th-ranked Golden Eagles beat St. John's 69-67 in overtime to win a share of the Big East regular-season title. It was Marquette's first championship in the Big East since joining the conference in 2005-06.

The fact that the Big East will be the same in name only starting next season meant a lot to coach Buzz Williams.

''That's the icing on the cake for me,'' Williams said, taking his time with his words and at the same time enjoying the moment. ''I don't have the experience that the coaches and former coaches have had in this league. For a country kid from a town of 2,000 in Texas (Van Alstyne) to be a part of what for the last 30 years has been the best league in college basketball. I am very humbled by all that.''

Fifth-ranked Georgetown clinched its share of the Big East title with a 61-39 win over No. 17 Syracuse earlier Saturday, while No. 8 Louisville made it a three-way tie with a 73-57 victory over No. 24 Notre Dame.

There almost was no celebration for the Golden Eagles, who led by nine with 1:50 to go. St. John's suddenly found some offense through forcing turnovers with its press and Marquette was missing some free throws.

Jamal Branch's layup with 27 seconds left in regulation capped a 12-2 run that tied it at 63.

Blue scored in a drive with 48 seconds left in overtime to tie it at 67. After St. John's missed two shots on one possession, Marquette called a timeout with 7.4 seconds left and there was one player who was getting the ball.

''I wanted to make sure it was the last shot,'' said Blue, who had four points in the overtime. ''I didn't want St. John's to get a shot. I didn't want a charge or to turn the ball over in any way.''

The ball went through and Marquette had a share of the title.

''We were emotionally bankrupt,'' Williams said. ''To play at the Garden, to play for the league and to win it with a last-second shot. It couldn't have been scripted any better.''

Blue had 16 points for the Golden Eagles (23-7, 14-4 Big East), who finished second in the Big East last season and were picked seventh in the preseason conference poll in November. This was their fourth straight win and sixth in seven games and the Golden Eagles get a bye to the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Phil Greene had 20 points, JaKarr Sampson added 17 and Christian Jones had a career-high 10 for the Red Storm, who will begin play in the Big East tournament Wednesday night.

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''Everyone is 0-0 in championship week and we have to take advantage of the opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden, our home court,'' St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. ''We can't allow this loss to turn into another loss.''

Jamil Wilson had 14 points and eight rebounds for Marquette.

The Red Storm played without Sir'Dominic Porter, a high energy player who was suspended for one game after being involved in a fight in the previous game against Notre Dame.

''Most of our losses were capable of being wins,'' said Jones, who played 20 minutes, more than double the 8.6 minutes he averaged this season. ''We didn't have a few of our leaders. We'll be ready for the next game.''

Marquette closed the first half on a 9-0 run to take a 28-25 lead, the Golden Eagles' first since 7-4 in the opening 3½ minutes. Junior Cadougan capped the run with a 3-pointer — just the Golden Eagles' second in nine attempts — with 39 seconds left. The Red Storm went 0 for 8 from the field and committed two turnovers in the closing four minutes of the half.

The Golden Eagles hit their first six shots of the second half, part of a 9-0 run that made it 37-25 with 18:07 to play. Marquette extended its lead to 41-27 and the Red Storm was able to get within 44-41 on a rebound dunk by Chris Obekpa with 12:12 to play.

Both teams expected to struggle with its 3-point shooting since they held the last two spots in that statistic in the Big East.

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Wilson and Blue sandwiched 3s around a drive by Greene to give the Golden Eagles a 60-51 lead with four minutes left. They were 2 for 11 from long range when Wilson and Blue connected while the Red Storm were 1 for 11.

St. John's finished 2 for 16 from 3-point range and 5 of 13 from the free throw line.

It was St. John's third game since suspending leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison for the rest of the season for conduct detrimental to the team. Sampson has stepped up and averaged 17.0 points in the three games — all losses, the first two on the road.

These schools were two of the seven that left the Big East to form their basketball-centric conference that will begin play next season under the name Big East with the tournament again played at Madison Square Garden.

Tagged: Marquette, St. John's (NY), Jamil Wilson

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