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WVU ready to face Marquette in Big East Tournament

NEW YORK - West Virginia is one of only two teams to win its first Big East Tournament game the previous three years. The other is Marquette, which extended its streak to four straight years Tuesday and hopes to prevent the Mountaineers from doing the same tonight.

The 11th-seeded Golden Eagles defeated No. 14 seed Providence 87-66 in the final game of the first day of the tournament at Madison Square Garden. Marquette led 17-0 despite two quick timeouts by the Friars, who didn't score for the first 5:18.

Marquette (19-13) plays sixth-seeded and 20th-ranked WVU (20-10) at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN as it tries to erase any doubt about a NCAA Tournament bid.

"Marquette doesn't take a play off," said Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun, whose team lost at home to the Golden Eagles last month, 74-67, in overtime. "They're a son-of-a-gun to play."

The Golden Eagles averaged 73.2 points in Big East games and 76.7 in all games in scoring offense and was No. 1 in the 16-team Big East in both. WVU finished the regular season ranked No. 11 in the conference in scoring offense (69.8), but No. 4 in scoring defense (64.0)

"If we could ever make shots we'd be pretty good," Coach Bob Huggins said. "We're pretty good on defense, but if we could just make some shots we'd be even better."

Marquette defeated the Mountaineers on New Year's Day, 79-74 and Huggins is 1-2 at WVU against the Golden Eagles.

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BIG EAST awards handed out Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden finally and emphatically explain Notre Dame's success this season.

The Fighting Irish were picked by the conference coaches in the preseason to finish seventh. They instead finished second. With only a loss to West Virginia in the final 12 games, Notre Dame is No. 4 nationally and eyeing a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament and for three key reasons: A great coach, wise veterans and a skilled leader.

Mike Brey was named the Big East's Coach of the Year for the third time in five years, forward Tim Abromaitis won the scholar-athlete prize for the second straight season and guard Ben Hansbrough was named the Player of the Year.

"This is very humbling when you think about all the guys in this league, but certainly guys like Ben and Tim make you look like a much better coach," Brey said.

Notre Dame is 25-5 and went 14-4 in Big East play with a win at top-seed Pitt. Hansbrough is a major reason why. The senior scored 20.7 points per game in league play and 18.5 overall. He was third in the Big East in 3-point shooting at 45.1 percent and averaged 4.2 assists.

A transfer from Mississippi State, the 6-foot-3 Hansbrough joins former Notre Dame greats Pat Garrity (1996-97), Troy Murphy (1999-2000 and 2000-01) and Luke Harangody (2007-08) in winning.

"As soon as I left Mississippi State, I knew exactly what I was looking for and I found it in Coach Brey," he said. "It's been a huge honor playing in the Big East and this will forever be a memorable moment in my life."

Abromaitis, one of five seniors to start for the Irish, averages 15.2 points per game and is No. 6 in the league in 3-point shooting at 41.9 percent. He joins Connecticut's Emeka Okafor (2003, 2004) and Seton Hall's Arturas Karnishovas (1993-94) as repeat winners.

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KEVIN JONES came here as a freshman two years ago fresh off of what was then the best game of his career. He was 9-for-11 and scored 19 points against Louisville, but followed that by missing 15 of 17 shots in three Big East Tournament games. He totaled six points.

Four days ago, Jones finished with career-high totals of 25 points and 16 rebounds against Louisville. He has reason to believe the momentum hangs around longer this time. Jones rediscovered his jump shot.

"I guess I put a little bit too much pressure on myself when I miss shots and I get down on myself when I miss shots," he said. "There's a lot of weight off my shoulders now and I feel like I can go out and play the way I know how to play. I wasn't doing that before and that's why I wasn't as successful before."

The preseason All-Big East first team pick who ended up on the honorable mention list at the end of the season was 5-for-5 in the second half against UConn and 11-for-21 against Louisville. He made three of his familiar jumpers after halftime against the Huskies and six against the Cardinals.

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SOUTH FLORIDA overcame the largest halftime deficit in Big East Tournament history and offered up the first major upset to defeat Villanova 70-69.

The Bulls outscored the Wildcats 37-20 in the second half.

USF guard Anthony Crater had two layups in the final 22 seconds, the first off a Villanova turnover on an inbound pass and the second with 5.1 seconds to go to win the game.

Shaun Noriega led the 15th-seeded Bulls with 22 points and made 6 of 12 3-point attempts. Gus Gilchrist added 16 points and Crater had six points and seven assists.

Malik Wayns had 24 points for the 10th-seeded Wildcats, but was responsible for the key turnover on Crater's first layup.


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