MILWAUKEE (AP)Marquette didn’t bother cutting down any nets after clinching a share of its first Big East regular-season title in a decade.
The Golden Eagles have bigger goals in mind.
”We don’t want to share,” Tyler Kolek said after his 22 points and 14 assists helped No. 10 Marquette to a 90-84 victory over DePaul on Saturday night. ”We want to put our stamp and really win the league. … I think the scene will be different when we actually do that.”
Kam Jones also scored 22 points as Marquette (23-6, 15-3) earned its first conference title since 2013, when the Golden Eagles shared the Big East crown with Georgetown and eventual national champion Louisville.
Not bad for a team that didn’t have a single preseason all-Big East selection and was picked by the league’s coaches to finish ninth out of 11 conference teams.
The other Big East teams with a shot to win a share of the title are No. 16 Xavier (21-8, 13-5) and No. 20 Providence (20-8, 12-5). Marquette can clinch the championship outright by winning either Tuesday at Butler or Saturday at home against St. John’s.
That remaining schedule explains why Marquette held off on a celebration.
”We’ve got two more games left,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. ”If this was our last game, then we would have done that. I asked Oso (Ighodaro) and Tyler a couple of days ago what they wanted to do with that, and they said, `Let’s try to win more.’ Obviously when you get to this point – we’ve got two games remaining and we’ve clinched a share – it’s a good time to be greedy in a good way.”
Marquette rolled to a 49-28 halftime advantage and hung on after DePaul (9-20, 3-15) got close down the stretch.
Marquette has won nine of its last 10, while DePaul has lost 10 straight.
DePaul cut Marquette’s lead to 78-72 on Umoja Gibson’s 3-pointer with 3:18 remaining and got it down to four with 15 seconds left, but the Blue Demons couldn’t keep Kolek off the free-throw line in the closing minutes.
Kolek scored 15 of Marquette’s last 16 points and was 9 of 10 on free-throw attempts in the final 2:04.
”They’re a resilient group, but you just can’t dig yourself a 21-point hole on the road against a team as good as Marquette,” DePaul coach Tony Stubblefield said. ”You have to exert so much energy to even get back in the game, that it’s really hard to overcome.”
Jones, celebrating his 21st birthday, put Marquette ahead for good by sinking a pair of 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the game. He made four shots from beyond the arc in the first 5 1/2 minutes and had a career-high six 3-pointers by halftime.
”He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen and one of my favorite guys to play with,” Kolek said.
Marquette shot 11 of 21 on 3-point attempts during a first half that featured 11 assists by Kolek. The Golden Eagles were just 1 of 7 from beyond the arc in the second half, enabling DePaul to claw back into the game.
Gibson led DePaul with 20 points and eight assists. Nick Ongenda added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
DePaul: The Blue Demons deserve credit for making this game competitive in the second half, but their losing streak still reached double digits. . DePaul was missing forward Yor Anei due to a hamstring injury. Da’Sean Nelson didn’t play the second half due to an ankle injury. . One bright spot was the performance of Ongenda, who had season highs in points and rebounds. Ongenda was playing just his fourth game of the season after recovering from wrist surgery.
Marquette: If the Golden Eagles play the way they did the first half, they can beat anyone in the country. But their second-half fade should serve as a lesson as they gear up for the NCAA Tournament. They might not have been able to survive that kind of late slump against a better opponent.
There’s at least a possibility Marquette could move into the top seven for the first time since the 1977-78 season. No. 6 Virginia, No. 7 Arizona and No. 8 Texas all lost this week.
DePaul: At No. 18 UConn on Wednesday.
Marquette: At Butler on Tuesday.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25