One of these perennial powers will move closer to another title Wednesday afternoon when the No. 21 Huskies face the 22nd-ranked Hoyas in the second round at Madison Square Garden.
Connecticut (22-9) has won six Big East tournament championships, but it snapped a six-game losing streak in the event with Tuesday’s 97-71 rout of DePaul.
“We’re happy to get a win. It’s been a while,” said coach Jim Calhoun, who guided the Huskies to their last Big East tournament title in 2004.
The ninth-seeded Huskies had not won a tournament game since beating Georgetown 66-62 in the 2005 quarterfinals.
Seeded eighth and the owner of seven league tournament titles, Georgetown (21-9) hopes to get back to the championship game for the second straight season after losing to West Virginia. The Hoyas last won the event in 2007.
However, like UConn, the Hoyas struggled down the stretch by losing their final three games.
Georgetown, which has been without second-leading scorer Chris Wright the last two games due a broken left hand, averaged 48.0 points on 31.1 percent shooting during that skid. Wright is scoring 13.1 points per game.
“Is it hard to deal with?” coach John Thompson III said of losing Wright, who could return for the NCAA tournament. “I can’t sit here and say everything is peachy. But that’s what athletics are about. There are injuries. You have to play the hand you’re dealt.”
That could be difficult for the Hoyas, who lost 78-70 at full strength at UConn on Feb. 16. The Huskies then went on to lose four of five to close the regular season.
Calhoun hopes Tuesday’s victory against overmatched DePaul will help his team regain some confidence for the rest of this tournament and beyond.
“We had a nice bounce-back game,” Calhoun said.
First-team all-Big East guard Kemba Walker scored 26 points, while Alex Oriakhi added 13 and tied a school tournament record with 19 rebounds.
The 6-foot-9 Oriakhi was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game after totaling seven points over his previous two contests, and the Huskies know they need him to be productive in the paint if they are to make a run this month.
“I just think we look different when he’s rebounding, blocking shots and playing defense like that,” Calhoun said. “He’s been struggling and I keep telling him, ‘It’s simple, go get the basketball.’ It’s never that simple, but it gets in your head.”
The sophomore had 10 points with eight rebounds versus Georgetown last month, and Walker finished with 31 points and 10 assists as the Huskies shot 54.2 percent for their best mark in conference play.
Georgetown’s first-team all-league pick Austin Freeman, who averages 17.8 points, was held to 12 on 4-of-13 shooting in that contest. The senior guard scored 21 in a 69-47 loss at Cincinnati on Sunday.
“Knowing that Chris is out of the lineup, I have to be aggressive on both ends of the floor,” Freeman said.
The winner faces third-ranked and No. 1 seed Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals Thursday.