NEW YORK — Tyrese Martin had 14 points and 10 rebounds and third-seeded UConn made an impressive return in its first Big East Tournament game in eight years with a 94-60 quarterfinal victory over DePaul on Thursday night.
R.J. Cole and Adama Sanogo also added 14 points apiece to lead the Huskies to their fifth straight win and seventh in eight games. James Bouknight added 10 points before sitting out most of the second half with apparent leg cramps.
Javon Freeman-Liberty led 11th-seeded DePaul (5-14) with 19 points. Ray Salnave added 10 and Charlie Moore had eight.
UConn (15-6) will face No. 17 and second-seeded Creighton in the second semifinal on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The Bluejays (19-7) ran away from No. 10 seed Butler 87-56 in the third quarterfinal.
Fifth-seeded Seton Hall (14-12) and eighth-seeded Georgetown (11-12) will play in the first semifinal, starting at 6 p.m. The Pirates beat St. John’s in overtime and Georgetown edged No. 14 and top-seeded Villanova, the three-time defending champions.
One of the founding members of the Big East and a winner of seven tournament titles being leaving, UConn spent the past seven years in the American Athletic Conference. It came into this year’s tournament as one of the favorites and it certainly lived up to the role in beating DePaul for the third time this season. The 34-point win was its largest of the season.
The Huskies took the lead for good at 10-7 on a 3-pointer by Cole and they ballooned the margin to 45-22 with a 16-2 run to close the first half. Cole had two 3-pointers in the spurt and Bouknight had six points.
DePaul: The Blue Demons season is over. Their came into the game with a two-game winning streak in the tournament. They won the last game that was completed in last year’s event before the tournament was called off and they surprised sixth-seeded Providence 70-62 on Wednesday night in the first round.
UCONN: The biggest concern for the Huskies was seeing Bouknight helped off the court in the second half because of apparent cramping in his legs. He missed eight games with an elbow injury and didn’t play in a game until Feb. 16 so conditioning and stamina might be an issue for the Huskies’ leading scorer.
Connecticut lost both regular-season games to Creighton. The first one was a 76-74 overtime decision at home on Dec. 20 and the second was 74-66 in Omaha, Nebraska.