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.