Nova Stunned As Big East Tournament Begins
New York, NY (WIBX)- Upsets. Cinderella's. Survival. It's all part of the madness which makes up the electrifying month of March for college basketball. So far it has lived up to it's hype. Considered by far the toughest conference in the nation and likely sending at least an NCAA record 10 teams into the NCAA tournament, the Big East Tournament kicked off their opening round games on Tuesday. As crowds flocked to Madison Square Garden to enjoy the 5 day marathon of competition, it didn't take long to see the first upset of the tournament.
Villanova's bubble might have finally burst as Nova was shocked by the 15th seeded South Florida Bulls in the closing seconds of their game. Trailing by 16 at half, the Bulls charged back to take a 1 point lead with 5.1 seconds left to cap an amazing come from behind win and send Villanova packing early. Villanova, once ranked as high as 6th in the nation, have lost 5 games in a row and leave their tournament hopes in the hands of the committee this Sunday. South Florida was led in scoring by Shaun Noriega with 22 points, while Maalik Wayns had 24 points for Villanova. South Florida will play 7th seeded Cincinatti at 7pm Wednesday night.
In the opening game of the tournament, it was 9th seeded ranked seeded UCONN winning easily against 16th seeded Depaul 97-61. It was the first win in the Big East Tournament for UCONN since 2005. UCONN, ranked 19th in the nation, was led by national player of the year hopeful Kemba Walker, who scored 26 points, including 19 in the second half. Brandon Young scored 20 points to lead the way for DePaul, who finishes the year with a 1-17 conference record. The win by UCONN sets up a pivotal game of former top 10 teams in the nation as they play 8th seeded Georgetown at noon on Wednesday.
In another thriller and the only overtime game of the day, it was 13th seeded Rutgers downing in-state rival and 12th seeded Seton Hall 76-70. Trailing by 3 with seconds left, Jeremy Hazell hit a 3 pointer for Seton Hall to tie the game and send it into overtime. However, once in overtime Seton Hall could not continue their momentum as Rutgers won by a final of 76-70 . Rutgers was led by Jonathan Mitchell, who scored 25 points while Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell led all scorers with 27 points. The win by Rutgers sets up another in-state matchup on Wednesday when they square off with the home team of the tournament and 5th seeded St. John's.
In the final game of the day, it was 11th seeded Marquette keeping their tournament hopes alive winning easily against 14th seeded Providence, 87-66. Darius Johnson-Odom led all scorers with 23 points and Jimmy Butler had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists for Marquette who dominated for the entire game. Vincent Council had 21 points and the Big East's regular season leading scorer Marshon Brooks added 20 points for Providence. Marquette will face 6th seeded West Virginia in their next game on Wednesday.