UPDATE: Marquette Defeats Providence, Big East Tourney Slightly Out Of Reach

Bryan Badolato's hat trick led Marquette in scoring against Providence. - MarquetteImages.com

Marquette held on for a 7-6 win against Providence and some help from Denver & Villanova has the Golden Eagles teetering on the edge of a Big East tournament slot.

UPDATE (4/14/14, 12:30pm): This was passed along to me by Luke LeNoble, Marquette's Director of Communications.  It comes straight from James Greene, the Big East's Assistant Director for Olympic Sports Media Relations:

For example, in a potential 4-way tie for 2nd at 3-3 between Villanova, Marquette, Georgetown and St. John’s, Villanova and St. John’s would be 2-1, and Marquette and Georgetown would be 1-2. Since St. John’s would’ve beaten Villanova, SJU would be the 2 seed and Villanova the 3. And since Georgetown would have defeated Marquette, the Hoyas would be the 4 seed and Marquette out of the tournament.

So, Marquette getting to 4 wins or Georgetown landing at 4 losses would put Marquette into the Big East tournament cleanly.  In a bit of fun convenience, the next game for both teams is Saturday at Hart Park.

*     *     *     *     *

From the opening face off, you could have made the case that the lightning delay before the game started affected Providence more than Marquette. Ryan McNamara opened the scoring after just a bit more than two minutes and Bryan Badolato scored just seven seconds later on a snazzy face off win and pass from Paul Riportella. 2-0 early turned into a three goal advantage for the Golden Eagles just a minute and 40 seconds later when Badolato recorded his second strike of the game.

And speaking of strikes, lightning in the area quickly drew a close to the Marquette advantage. Things were delayed for nearly an hour with 9:25 sitting on the 1st quarter clock. Once the all clear was given, defense was the name of the game, as the scoring came to a halt until Alex Corboy pulled PC within two with just less than two minutes left in the period.

The scoring in the second period started with a slashing penalty on Providence's Andrew Barton. Not because Marquette cashed in the man advantage, but because PC's Tyler Himes made a save as the penalty expired. The Friars made a home run outlet straight down the middle of the field to Robby Stack who found a freshly released Barton deep in the Marquette end and he beat Jimmy Danaher to make it a one goal game. The defenses resumed strong action as Danaher made stop after stop (this would be a trend) for Marquette, while the Golden Eagle offense couldn't control the ball on their end and PC forced turnovers. Eventually, a cross checking penalty on Marquette's BJ Grill turned into PC's third goal, and we went to halftime knotted at three.

Marquette head coach Joe Amplo has shown an ability to make changes that benefit his offense at half time in the past (hi St. John's & Notre Dame!), and he did it again here. Marquette retook the advantage on a home run outlet of their own that turned into a Noah Joseph goal, and 30 seconds later, a restart deep in the Providence end led to Conor Gately bouncing it past Himes for a two goal lead. Five minutes later, Badolato finished his hat trick and Gately repeated his 30 seconds later trick and MU led 7-3.

PC broke Marquette's run at four straight goals, and the cold front that blew in right behind Austin Goltz's goal ended up being ominous for Marquette's offense. The Golden Eagles would not score again over the final 20 minutes of the game, while Providence scored three straight to pull within 7-6 with just under seven minutes left. But Jimmy Danaher was still minding the Marquette net. While the offense struggled to handle the ball cleanly on their end, Danaher made five of his personal best 14 saves in the game over the final 20 minutes, including two major stops after PC got within one. Danaher's biggest play may have been his last one with 43 seconds left, where he made the save, came up with the ground ball, and fed Liam Byrnes for the outlet. Byrnes ended up throwing it away and nowhere as deep as he wanted to, so Providence ended up with one more shot, but it was blocked and Jacob Richard's ground ball gave Marquette their third Big East win.

Later on Saturday evening, Denver beat St. John's 16-9 and Villanova beat Rutgers 15-11. Those results left the Big East standings looking like this on Sunday morning.

Team Record
Denver 4-0
Villanova 3-1
Marquette 3-1
Rutgers 2-3
St. John's 2-3
Georgetown 1-3
Providence 0-4

With just one game left, Rutgers and St. John's can't finish better than 3-3, and with two games left, Marquette can't finish worse than 3-3. The Golden Eagles hold tiebreakers against both the Scarlet Knights and the Red Storm, so that means that Marquette can't finish lower than fourth, locking them into their first ever Big East tournament appearance! Before the season started, I asked whether or not Joe Amplo was a crazy person for believing that his squad could compete for a spot in the postseason. Now, with a home game against Georgetown and a road trip to Denver left on the schedule, not only have they locked up one of the four Big East tournament slots, a Big East regular season title is still possible. It would require wins in both of the final two games, including against a Pioneers squad that's currently ranked #5 in the country, but I think we can allow a little bit of dreaming at this point.

STAT WATCH: Marquette won the face off battle for the game, taking 9 of 17. That's 52.9% for the game, much better than last year's 42.9% mark. As for the turnovers, this was not Marquette's strong suit. The Golden Eagles committed 22 turnovers in the game, waaaaay over their season average of 12.6, and that's including this outing. 10 turnovers were forced by the Friars, leaving 12 unforced errors by MU. With 34 offensive chances, that's a rate of 35.3 unforced turnovers per 100 chances, well over last year's 27.5 per 100 mark. Of particular concern on turnovers in this game was how Marquette handled their clearing opportunities. MU only succeeded on 15 of 23 clearing attempts.

Up Next: I mentioned that home contest against Georgetown already, and that'll be quite the event at Hart Park. It will be Senior Day next Saturday for men's lacrosse, and the game against Georgetown will also be the second part of a doubleheader with women's lacrosse getting the day started at 11am.

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