The Golden Eagles shot just 2-16 from beyond the arc, but that pair of three pointers proved to be daggers to the Huskies as Junior Cadougan sent the game into overtime with a 30 foot buzzer beating shot in regulation. With 1:46 left in overtime, Vander Blue’s three-pointer gave Marquette a lead they would not relinquish.
Vander Blue banks a three pt shot in OT
“We turned a corner (tonight) with who we are with this team,” said Marquette Assistant Coach Brad Autry. “Not with last year’s team was or two years ago, this year’s team.”
Brad Autry and Jerry Wainwright survey the court.
New Year’s night belonged to senior point guard Junior Cadougan, whose 18 points, five assists, and heroic game-tying three pointer sent the 14,149 fans at the Bradley Center into a frenzy. Up one with 40 seconds left, UConn turned to sophomore Ryan Boatright, who drained what seemed like a game-icing jumper with six seconds left. That set the stage for Cadougan, who went coast to coast to send the game into overtime.
“When I had the ball in my hands there was 5 seconds left,” said Cadougan. “I knew I had to get a couple rhythm dribbles and shoot it to make it. It’s a great feeling. We got a big win against UConn.”
Gardner and Cadougan each score 18pts vs UCONN
Autry was not surprised at all by Cadougan’s buzzer beating shot.
“I’ll tell you what Junior does really well is win games. I talked to him at practice Monday and I told him, ‘You haven’t forgotten what it takes (to win Big East games)?’ It takes players making plays. We had a lot of guys who made a lot of really big plays when they had to be made. But that’s what Junior does, he wins games.”
Steady, too, for Marquette was Davante Gardner who equaled Cadougan’s 18 points and added six rebounds and three blocks. Gardner was the most consistent Marquette scoring option throughout the game- getting to the line 10 times and making all 10 free throws.
Autry remarked about Gardner’s performance, “He’s just a really really good player and he’s just another kid who knows how to win.”
Fighting through a dismal 30% from the floor in the first half, the Golden Eagles relied on 10 offensive rebounds and nine second chance points to build a 30-27 halftime lead.
“We knew they were going to make it a fight,” said first year UConn coach Kevin Ollie who acknowledged that coaching in this game was a crazy way to open his Big East career. “They just threw it up on the glass and went and got it. They earned 10 extra possessions in the first half because of that.”
Marquette built 10 point leads on two separate occasions in the second half and UConn was able to storm back both times on the hot shooting and dominating offensive performance of Shabazz Napier, who scored a game high 29 points. The 6-1 guard also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists.
“He’s good-he can score the ball,” admitted Cadougan of UConn’s star player. “You just have to try and contain him and make him take bad shots. He did a great job tonight.”
Marquette played without Head Coach Buzz Williams, who was serving a one game, university imposed suspension for a violation this summer committed by an assistant coach.
“As you can see we didn’t have our head coach tonight,” admitted Cadougan. The guys didn’t rely on me. The guys didn’t rely on the coaching staff. We all did it as one. It’s a sign of maturity that we have on our team. That’s going to take us a long way”.
Marquette has now won 17 straight home games, which is the sixth-longest in NCAA division one. Another Big East test is coming to Milwaukee Saturday, as Marquette squares off with 15th ranked Georgetown.
Michael Manderino & Andrew Sharos contributed to this article