Somewhere, Buzz Williams is likely grinning from ear to ear.
Playing without their eccentric head coach on the sidelines as he served a one-game suspension resulting from an off-season recruiting violation, the Marquette Golden Eagles, under assistant coach Brad Autry, began conference play in fine fashion as they upended the Connecticut Huskies, 82-76, in overtime Tuesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Golden Eagles (10-3, 1-0), who will face three ranked foes in the coming week and a half, notched their third consecutive Big East opener—and ran their home winning streak to 17 straight games in the process—thanks to a significant rebounding edge over the Huskies (39-29), a balanced scoring attack and some late game heroics.
Senior point guard Junior Cadougan, who entered 2013 with a scoring average of 9.5 ppg, matched his season-high with 18 points and drilled the biggest basket in the Golden Eagles’ season.
With the Golden Eagles leading throughout the majority of the evening—including a 54-44 edge with 11:03 to play—the two teams played a game of hot potato with the lead over the final 6:46 of regulation.
Following an off-balance jumper from Ryan Boatright at the top of the key with five seconds remaining, UConn led 69-66 and seemed poised to deliver Marquette its first home defeat since December 29, 2011.
On the ensuing Marquette possession, though, Cadougan, who shot 7-of-13 on the evening, donned his cape and sent the crowd into a collective state of jubilation via drilling a deep three (the first of the game for MU, who had misfired on its previous 14 attempts from beyond the arc) from the right wing as time expired to extend the contest another five minutes.
In the extra frame, the blue and gold, who shot 43.1 percent from the field, limited UConn to two field goals and used a strong showing from the free throw line (6-of-8 over the final 33 seconds) to win notch their third straight triumph on New Year’s Day.
Aside from the 6’1”, 205-pound Cadougan, Marquette, who tallied 15 assists on 25 field goals, received strong showings from Vander Blue, who tallied 13 points, headlined by a banked-in three pointer in overtime to give the Golden Eagles a lead they would not relinquish, and center Davante Gardner who chipped in with 18 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots off the bench.
Overall, all but one of the 11 players who hit the hardwood for MU on the evening scored.
The Huskies (10-3, 0-1), meanwhile saw their four-game winning streak go by the wayside. Led by junior guard Shabazz Napier’s game-high 29 points, UConn shot 44.8 percent from the floor and have now dropped two of their past three conference openers.
Behind 15 combined points from Cadougan and Gardner, MU opened up an 18-13 advantage and never relinquished their lead en route to holding a 30-27 lead at halftime.
The Golden Eagles—with Williams back in the captain’s chair—return to action on Saturday, Jan. 5 when they play host the No. 15 Georgetown at 1:00p.m. CST.