NCAA Division I Sports
NCAA Division I Sports
MILWAUKEE (AP)—Steve Novak wasted no time introducing himself to the Big East.
The 6-foot-10 senior had career highs of 41 points and 16 rebounds and Marquette won its first Big East game with a 94-79 upset of No. 2 Connecticut on Tuesday night.
Novak set a record for the most points by a player in his Big East debut, bettering the 30 shared by Notre Dame’s Troy Murphy in 1998 and Georgetown’s Allen Iverson in 1994.
“It’s great company to be in. Tonight, just a lot of things were clicking,” Novak said. “It’s our first game in our Big East. It’s our first game playing those guys, so it was hard to know exactly what to expect.”
The higher-ranked teams should expect the best from Novak.
His previous career high of 30 points came in a road victory at No. 4 Louisville in 2004, and he scored 16 as a freshman to beat No. 1 Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, which sent the Golden Eagles to the Final Four in 2003.
“Players have to step up when you’re playing against great teams,” Novak said. “Now is no different.”
The victory, Marquette’s first in the regular season over a team ranked higher than third, spoiled the return of Huskies junior guard Marcus Williams who was suspended for the first semester over the theft of laptops from a dormitory.
Jerel McNeal added 19 points and 12 rebounds for Marquette (11-3, 1-0), one of five schools that joined the now 16-team Big East in the offseason from Conference USA.
“This is an unbelievable conference win,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “We just beat a premiere college basketball program in our first game in a new conference, and that is just a special thing.”
Connecticut (11-1, 0-1) looked out of sync after playing its last seven games at home against opponents such as Morehead State, Stony Brook and Quinnipiac.
“We weren’t prepared,” Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. “We were living on an 11-0 season that meant absolutely nothing because you have to play the next one.”
The Golden Eagles went on a 7-0 run early in the second half to take their first double-digit lead, and Dominic James hit a 3-pointer to make it 55-41 with 15:01 left.
Novak then refused to let the Huskies get close, hitting three straight free throws to make it 64-47. His 3-pointer, one of six, with 6:17 left gave Marquette an 80-57 lead. He finished 12-for-20 from the field and 11-for-11 from the free throw line.
“He hit fallaways, he hit a 38-footer, you name it,” Calhoun said. “He was wonderful.”
Rashad Anderson scored 25 points for the Huskies, while Josh Boone had 13 and Hilton Armstrong 12.
Marquette took Connecticut out of its rhythm by refusing to run with the Huskies, who averaged 87.8 points per game and scored 111 or more in three of its last six contests.
The Huskies were 8 - of-24 on 3s and 17-of-34 from the free throw line, never threatening after Marquette’s early second-half run.
“We got completely taken out of our offense and we came down and did nothing but cast up prayers,” Calhoun said. “I’m just stunned by the way we played.”
Marquette wasn’t expected to do much with five freshmen and only three players—including Novak—returning from its Final Four team.
But this team looked dangerous with the freshmen McNeal and James slashing to the basket and Novak hitting clutch shots each time Connecticut threatened.
“We all know on the team what Steve is capable of doing, especially when he’s feeling it,” McNeal said. “After we started penetrating, we starting looking for him a whole lot.”
The Golden Eagles’ dominant play made Williams’ return a non-issue. The crowd chanted “Where’s my laptop? Where’s my laptop?” when Williams first entered the game at the 17:21 mark. He finished with four points, seven assists and three turnovers.
“The No. 2 team just lost by (25) points,” Williams said. “That just goes to show that anything can happen at any point.”
Williams had said he expected the hostile reaction after doing community service both on campus and in the legal system.
Williams, the Big East assists leader last season, took it in stride and smiled after a media timeout as someone shouted, “Can you get a printer, too?”
The Golden Eagles are 3-17 against teams ranked No. 1 or No. 2, beating Kentucky twice (1955, 2003) in the NCAA tournament.
Technical Fouls: Connecticut - H. Armstrong Jr. 1
Officials: Jim Burr, John Higgins, Reggie Greenwood