The early part of the Big East schedule has not been kind to YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles. They got run out of their own building by Seton Hall. They couldn't find a way to steal a win at Georgetown, despite the fact that the Hoyas seemed to be actively trying to give the game away. So there was little reason to think things would go much better when they traveled to Providence to take on the Friars, at the Donut Hole. It seemed Marquette was destined to fall to 0-3 in conference for the first time since the 98-99 season - when your boy Mr. K roamed the halls of McCormick, Mike Deane prowled the Bradley Center sidelines, and MU basketball legends like Mike Bargen were leading the Golden Eagles to a 14-15 season. Good times.
Fortunately, Providence also seemed to think there was little reason to be concerned about the Golden Eagles and they came out and played like hot garbage for the first 15 minutes of the game. Sloppy play, turnovers and bad shooting by the Friars allowed Marquette to jump out to an early lead. By the 8 minute mark, the lead had grown to 12 and Ed Cooley needed to get a TO. But despite the lead, the game had a similar feel to the 2nd half of the Georgetown game - that there was an opportunity to really seize control of the game that was not being fully exploited. And sure enough, MU turnovers, paired with PC second chance points, and the fact that the Friars just seemed to finally realize the game had started, allowed the lead to be reduced to 6 by halftime. And it just felt like momentum was migrating over to the Providence side of the floor.
The young Eagles were game for the early part of the second half, maintaining their 6 point advantage. But about seven minutes into the half, Providence finally mounted the charge that you knew was coming. Led by Ben Bentil, PC put together a 16-4 spurt that saw them flip an 8-point deficit into a 4-point lead. And when Bentil threw down a thunderous alley-oop, the roof about came off the Dunkin Donuts Center. The run had come, the crowd was alive, and Providence had taken control of the game. They would extend the lead to 8 points, while MU made just one field goal in about six minutes. The wheels seemed to have come off once again.
But unlike the previous two conference games, when things got sideways in this one the Golden Eagles were able to recover. With about 6 minutes left, trailing by 8, Wojo went to the bag of tricks and dusted off the old 2-3 zone he loves so much. The defensive wrinkle helped to break the Friars' rhythm, and brought the return the turnovers MU had capitalized on earlier in the game. Before you could say God Shammgod, Jajuan Johnson was capping a Marquette 8-0 run and the game was tied.
Kris Dunn answered the run for Providence with a 3-pointer, to put PC back in front. But the young Golden Eagles would not go quietly. An awesome dish from Henry Ellenson to Luke Fischer, on some high-low action against the Friar zone, brought MU back within a point. Then, after a solid defensive stop, Duane Wilson took control of a broke possession, attacked the rack and scored on a tough finish at the rim. Marquette had the lead with 24 seconds to play, but Providence would have one last shot. Fortunately, after a timeout, they inexplicably decided to use about 18 of those last 24 ticks dribbling the ball and giving it to people besides Kris Dunn. By the time the ball found its way back to Dunn there was only enough time for him to dribble into a triple team and take a rushed shot, which was blocked by Henry Ellenson. Ball game.
- Haanif Cheatham led MU with 16 points, on a cool 5-7 from the field, 1-1 from distance, and 5-6 from the line. I am quickly growing very fond of this kid.
- Henry Ellenson notched another double-double with 13 points and 10 boards. Most of his scoring damage was done in the first half.
- Offensive rebounds: Providence 13, Marquette 2. That's not good.
- If you like turnovers, you loved this game. Both teams combined for 35 total turnovers. Nice and sloppy!
- Marquette's last road win over a top 10 team, was in December of 2011 when they beat the 9th ranked Wisconsin Badgers in Madison.
Up next it's St. John's on Saturday, in Milwaukee. It would be a shame to spoil this sweet victory with a home loss to the lowly Red Storm. So let's handle business this weekend. I'll see you all at the BC.