Andrew Rowsey scored 25 points, and Marquette narrowly escaped with a 72-69 win over DePaul on Wednesday night in the first round of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Seventh-seeded Marquette (19-12) advances to play second-seeded Villanova on Thursday night in the conference tourney quarterfinals. The Golden Eagles lost both regular-season games against Villanova by 13 points combined.
Rowsey’s backcourt mate, Sacar Anim, scored 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Marquette prevailed despite a rare poor performance from leading scorer Markus Howard, who finished with four points on 2-for-6 shooting.
Marin Maric and Max Strus each scored 22 points for DePaul (11-20), which was the tournament’s No. 10 seed.
DePaul applied heavy pressure in the final few minutes. Strus hit a 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining to narrow the deficit to 70-69. The Blue Demons stole the ball on the next possession and called a timeout with 11.5 seconds left to try to set up a game-winning shot.
Strus’ 3-point attempt hit off the front rim with less than two seconds to go.
Rowsey made a pair of free throws for the final margin.
The score was tight for most of the second half. Strus drove to the paint and leaped for a one-handed dunk to make it 61-all with 5:44 remaining. Marquette scored the next five points.
DePaul went on a 10-0 run to trim the deficit to 52-51 with 9:57 to play. Eli Cain converted a three-point play with a layup and a free throw to punctuate the outburst.
Marquette responded with back-to-back baskets by Anim and Sam Hauser to snap a four-minute scoring drought.
Marquette built a 39-27 advantage at the break. Rowsey hit a buzzer-beater at the end of the first half as he dribbled from end to end and hit a running floater from just inside the 3-point line.
DePaul concluded its 11th consecutive season with a losing record. A new arena near downtown Chicago did little to boost the stature of the program, which has reached the NCAA Tournament once in the past 18 seasons.
Marquette is vying to reach the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row and the 10th time in 13 years. They are projected as a bubble team.
—Field Level Media