Marquette wins first ever Big East Men's Basketball Championship

Marquette wins first ever Big East Men's Basketball Championship originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Marquette Golden Eagles won its first ever Big East Men's Basketball Tournament since joining the conference in 2005.

A dynamite defense led the No. 6 Golden Eagles (28-6) over the No. 15 Xavier Musketeers (25-9) in front of a sellout crowd of 19,812 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

Marquette held Xavier to its lowest point total of the season by some distance in its 65-51 victory.

"It was huge," head coach Shaka Smart said. "Our guys played with real force to start the game, and that kind of allowed us to have the aggressiveness advantage in the first couple rounds of the game. Then we just continued that."

In Smart's two seasons leading the squad, he boasts a 47-19 record in which he has led the Golden Eagles to its first outright Big East regular season title in program history and now its first conference championship.

One of Marquette's key forces of the night was junior guard Tyler Kolek, who was honored as the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

"All the moments they've [Kolek's supporters] been through with me have led up to this moment right here," Kolek said after the victory. "To share that with my high school coach, my brother, my dad, my two best friends, it's special. There is no better feeling."

In the first half, Marquette started 6-for-12 from the floor with five different players making a field goal. The Golden Eagles gained a 21-8 lead in less than 8 minutes.

The Musketeers started to show some life and created its own momentum on an 8-0 run with 2:27 left in the half, which was ultimately snapped by Marquette sophomore forward David Joplin.

Marquette went on to close out the half with a 39-24 lead with Joplin and Kolek each securing nine points apiece.

Kolek opened the scoring for the Golden Eagles in the second half with back-to-back field goals, extending Marquette's lead to 43-24.

The overwhelming margin and momentum continued for Marquette as it gained a 25-point lead with 11:48 left in the game before the Golden Eagles locked in the championship.

In the post-game award presentation, the Golden Eagles took turns climbing up a ladder to cut out a piece of the basket net -- a tradition that began in 1947.

But once the confetti is all cleaned up at MSG, Marquette will begin to prepare for its next challenge: the NCAA tournament.

"We want to go in the NCAA tournament like we're the underdogs every game," he said. "That's been our mindset all year, and that's what it needs to be moving forward."

Kolek finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists while Joplin had 12 points and four rebounds. Kameron Jones added 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in the win.

Guard Adam Kunkel led Xavier with 14 points, four rebounds and an assist.