Down For The Count: Providence 81, Marquette 80 (2 OT)

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

After gamely battling back from double-digit deficits, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles came up just short in their attempt to swipe a road win against Providence, and now all that's left is to find out where we're headed when the NIT brackets are released in 10 days.

I would like to be impressed with Marquette's hard-fought, close-but-no-cigar loss to Providence at the Dunkin Donuts Center last night. I'd like to laud the team for valiantly battling back after being down double digits in both the first and second half while facing a hostile crowd on PC's Senior Night, for the stones Todd Mayo showed when he sank three free throws to send the game to overtime, for Jake Thomas shaking off another spotty performance to drain a triple to push the game to two overtimes, for Jamil Wilson dominating the glass and Mayo turning in a stellar 26-11-3 line in 43 minutes and Deonte Burton and John Dawson providing a big spark off the bench.

But I can't. Not when I've got the images of Mayo twice fouling on 3-point attempts and gifting the Friars four-point plays, of Jamil flopping to a 4-15 shooting performance and letting his team down again, of Derrick Wilson committing the most hilariously juvenile traveling violation you'll see outside of a grade-school gym when he started running before dribbling the ball, of Thomas letting himself get swarmed under and giving up a disastrous jump ball when Marquette was up 1 with eight seconds to play, of Derrick then compounding that error by fouling on the subsequent inbounds play, of Coach Buzz boarding the team bus with his last two timeouts stowed securely in his luggage.

I mean, really: this was the team that was picked to WIN THE FREAKING CONFERENCE, and we're supposed to feel good that they didn't quit when the going got tough? Playing hard used to be the baseline for a Buzz Williams-coached team. Now suddenly it's the silver lining when the team, like it has against every halfway-decent opponent not named George Washington, does just enough to lose?

And now all that's left (aside from the Big East Tournament, where we haven't won in two years, by the way) is the quiet death rattle of the NIT, and then the post-mortem where we try to figure out how we were so wrong -- how everybody was so wrong -- about this team. (And that's before we even get to looking ahead to next year and confront the sobering reality that we're losing our entire front court and probably at least half of this year's freshmen class.)

Dark days, friends. Dark days.

Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: He had enough of his standard-issue knuckleheadery sprinkled in to make you groan, but Todd Mayo was largely superb last night, finishing with 26 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. And with Jamil Wilson going into his shell again and Davante Gardner unable to create his own looks, Mayo's the best thing we've got going in crunch time. That is both encouraging and terrifying.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I know his shot-a-minute routine drives some people nuts, but without Deonte Burton's 10 points last night, that game might've gotten out of hand in a hurry. And, hey! TWO ASSISTS.

Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: Fine, fine: it didn't count, and he wasn't close to getting it off in time, but Ox's 70-foot heave at the end of regulation momentarily stopped hearts in Wisconsin and Rhode Island.

Up Next: The end comes mercifully on Saturday, as YOUR Golden Eagles try to send Jamil, Davante, Chris, and Jake out in style on Senior Day when St. John's comes to town. The Johnnies handled Marquette easily in New York a month ago, and Buzz already started making excuses for Saturday's contest in his post-game press conference (complaining that St. John's has been off since playing DePaul on Sunday), but maybe the boys go out with a bang at the Bradley Center. Stranger things have happened.

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