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No. 2 UConn outlasts No. 8 Marquette 74-67 for 1st Top 25 road win in a decade

UConn Marquette Basketball
Posted at 9:40 AM, Mar 07, 2024

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Alex Karaban knew his slump would end sooner or later. He's too good a shooter to keep misfiring the way he had during UConn's last few games.

Sure enough, Karaban broke out in a big way by scoring 23 points as the second-ranked Huskies defeated No. 8 Marquette 74-67 on Wednesday night for their first road win over an Associated Press Top 25 team in a decade.

“I knew I was eventually going to get out of it,” said Karaban, who went 4 of 22 from 3-point range over his previous four games. “It felt really good. It's just nice to have teammates and coaches who continue to have trust in me and just continue to tell me to shoot it every time."

Karaban shot 5 of 9 from beyond the arc Wednesday and is making 39.2% of his attempts this season. Cam Spencer added 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists while going 5 of 7 on 3s.

They helped reigning national champion UConn (27-3, 17-2 Big East) defeat a ranked team in a true road game for the first time since 2014.

The Huskies beat ranked Memphis teams at the FedEx Forum twice that year, in January and again two months later in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. Memphis was technically the visiting team on its home floor during the AAC Tournament game as the lower seed.

UConn coach Danny Hurley downplayed the importance of ending that streak.

“We sucked for years, right?” Hurley said. “We went through some cold winters. And then back when I took over this job, there was no portal, so you had to rebuild something slowly.”

Kam Jones scored 18 points and Oso Ighodaro had 16 for Marquette (22-8, 13-6), which dropped a second straight game without 2023 Big East player of the year Tyler Kolek.

Kolek injured his oblique last week in a victory over Providence. Marquette coach Shaka Smart has expressed confidence the 6-foot-3 guard will return at some point in the postseason.

“Our guys stayed together,” Smart said. “The huddles were very good. They believed. We just didn't execute a lot of things we need to do well enough to beat a team like UConn.”

UConn, which clinched the Big East regular-season title outright Sunday, completed a season sweep of the team that won last year’s regular-season and tournament championships. The Huskies trounced Marquette 81-53 on Feb. 17 at home.

Marquette did make it interesting down the stretch by capitalizing on Spencer's temporary lack of judgment.

UConn took its biggest lead when Spencer hit a 3-pointer to make it 70-56 with 7:54 remaining. Spencer was 5 of 5 from beyond the arc at that point, and he celebrated by saying something to the crowd that drew a technical foul.

“He’s got to rein that in,” Hurley said. “There’s some other fan bases and programs that I don’t mind him (trash) talking them, but I didn’t like him doing it near their bench and to their fans.”

The momentum then shifted.

Marquette cut UConn’s lead to 72-67 on David Joplin’s driving layup with 56 seconds left. The Golden Eagles got a steal on UConn’s ensuing possession and called a timeout with 24.4 seconds remaining, but Joplin lost the ball on an awkward dribble.

Stephon Castle hit two free throws with 8.4 seconds remaining to seal the victory. UConn hung on and Spencer considered it a lesson learned.

“My emotions got the best of me," he said. "It won't happen again.”

BIG PICTURE

UConn: After Marquette went on an early 10-0 run to move ahead, UConn delivered a championship-caliber response. UConn improved to 4-1 against top-10 teams this season and earned its first road win over a top-10 team since a 93-82 triumph at No. 8 Marquette on Feb. 25, 2009.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles have a negative rebound margin this season, and that's often the issue when they lose. Marquette was outrebounded 44-31 and outscored 19-4 in second-chance points Wednesday.

UP NEXT

UConn: At Providence on Saturday.

Marquette: At Xavier on Saturday.