DePaul falls in opening round of Big East Tournament again

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DePaul guard Eli Cain (11) and forward Tre’Darius McCallum (10) leave the court after the team’s 72-69 loss to Marquette in an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Big East men’s tournament, in New York on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) ORG XMIT: MSG127

NEW YORK — Marquette extended its streak of reaching the Big East Tournament quarterfinals every year since joining the league in 2005-06.

The Golden Eagles barely did it this year to keep their chances of making the NCAA Tournament alive.

Andrew Rowsey scored 25 points and seventh-seeded Marquette blew a 14-point lead and came back to outlast 10th-seeded DePaul 72-69 in the opening round of the tournament on Wednesday night.

“It’s a great win for our team and our program,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “Really proud of our guys. We fought through a lot of adversity. Our guys showed great toughness. Obviously there’s a lot of game pressure on us.”

Sam Hauser added 16 points and hit two big free throws with 33 seconds to play as the Golden Eagles (19-12) handed the Blue Demons (11-20) their fourth-straight opening-round loss in the tournament.

DePaul had a chance to win the game in the final seconds but Max Strus, who scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half, missed an open 3-pointer with Marquette clinging to a 70-69 lead.

Rowsey got the rebound and was fouled, making two free throws with less than a second to play.

The win was the third straight for Marquette, which advanced to a quarterfinal showdown against second-seeded Villanova on Thursday night.

Marin Maric also scored 22 points for DePaul.

Strus drove the lane and dunked to tie the game at 61 with 5:46 to play.

Rowsey, who had only one second-half field goal at that point, hit a 3-pointer and a jumper to give the Golden Eagles a 66-61 lead.

“We were fortunate to have a guy like Andrew who doesn’t feel game pressure,” Wojciechowski said. “He’s a fearless player. And he made obviously huge plays when we needed it the most.”

Rowsey, who was 3 of 9 from the field in the second half, said the shots were there.

“It’s more of just what the game presents,” said Rowsey, who finished 8 of 20. “The game presented me an open 3 and then it presented me a drive to a pull-up. So I took what I saw and I made it.”

A basket by Eli Cain and a 3-pointer by Strus, sandwiched around a jumper by Sacar Anim, got DePaul with 68-66.

Hauser’s two free throws pushed the lead to four but Strus hit a long 3-pointer in front of his bench to make it 70-69 with 21.3 seconds to play.

Rowsey turned the ball over at midcourt with 11.5 seconds left and DePaul called its final timeout to set up Strus for his wide-open shot.

“We’ve seen him to knock down anywhere from 25 or 30 of those in a row, so Marin or anyone else would trust Max taking that shot,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said.

Rowsey hit three straight 3-pointers in an 18-2 first half spurt that gave Marquette a 25-12 lead midway through the first half and the Golden Eagles expanded the margin to 14 points at 29-15.

It looked like it would be an easy night for the Golden Eagles. It wasn’t.

“Obviously we were a little bit short, as we have been a number of times this year,” Leitao said. “So that makes it a little more painful to endure when you know you have chances to win and you don’t.”

WHERE DID EVERYONE GO

Despite having a second nor’easter hit the New York City metropolitan area in a week, the crowd for the St.-John’s-Georgetown game was listed at 16,866. The crowd for the second game dwindled to a couple of thousand people by the middle of the second half. The attendance was the largest for the opening round since the league realigned in 2014.

UP NEXT

DePaul: Next season.

Marquette: Face second-seeded Villanova in the quarterfinals on Thursday night. Lost both regular-season games.

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