Though the third-seed Cardinals received a double-bye into tonight's contest, the Golden Eagles had to earn their way to face Rick Pitino's team. Marquette beat Providence Tuesday, then upset six-seed West Virginia 67-61 Wednesday night.
Junior Cadougan led Marquette with 15 points, but it was defense that helped the Golden Eagles reach the Big East Tournament quarterfinals for the sixth consecutive year. After West Virginia shot 56 percent in the first half, Marquette turned up their defense, limiting Bob Huggins' squad to just 22 percent shooting after halftime.
Now, Louisville and Marquette, former Conference USA rivals, will meet in the Big East Tournament for the first time since joining the conference in 2005-06. Louisville beat Marquette Jan. 15 at the KFC Yum! Center, overcoming an 18-point deficit with six minutes remaining – a "meltdown" of epic proportions, according to Marquette coach Buzz Williams.
"If you follow our team closely that meltdown really shook us," Williams said last night. " I think that we responded in the three game winning streak prior to last week, but I'm not sure that we ever fully regained our complete composure. I don't know that we have even yet today."
After melting down in the second half against Louisville, Marquette lost five of their next eight games. They seem to have righted the ship heading into tonight's quarterfinal, winning five of their last seven contests, including their two Big East tournament wins.
Though Marquette will be playing their third game in as many days, Williams has a deep bench that might be able to overcome the demanding nature of the Big East Tournament. Eight of Williams' players played at least 15 minutes against West Virginia, and his bench delivered 32 points against the Mountaineers – three fewer than Marquette's starters. Whether Marquette can also overcome well-rested Louisville's fullcourt pressure is another matter entirely.
"I thought the first 34 minutes at the Yum! Center was as good as we have played all year long and I thought the six minutes were as bad as we have played all year long," Williams said. "But I think it speaks to our guys' character. We've won 20 games, 11 in the Big East and we have an opportunity to play another game. So I don't know that anything that happened at the Yum! Center, really has any bearing. I think that stuff dissipates once the game starts."
Official ControversyThe big story on day two of the Big East Tournament came in the final seconds of St. John's 65-63 win over Rutgers. Big East Commissioner John Marinatto issued a statement after the game acknowledging that the officiating crew of Tim Higgins, Jim Burr and Earl Walton blew two calls in the final seconds – an obvious walking violation by St. John's forward Justin Brownlee, who stepped out of bounds and threw the ball into the stands with time remaining on the clock. Both infractions would have stopped the clock and given the ball back to Rutgers with 1.7 seconds on the clock.
"Both missed violations should have caused the game clock to stop and a change of possession to occur prior to the end of the game," Marinatto said. "Neither error is reviewable or correctable under NCAA playing rules."
Burr and Higgins have been officiating in the Big East since its inception in 1979.
Big East Second Round ResultsUConn 79, Georgetown 62
St. John's 65, Rutgers 63
Cincinnati 87, South Florida 61
Marquette 67, West Virginia 61
Big East Quarterfinal MatchupsPittsburgh vs. UConn – Noon
Syracuse vs. St. John's – 2:00
Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati – 7:00
Louisville vs. Marquette – 9:00