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Second Half Team: #15 Marquette 79, Providence 68

The Golden Eagles overcame a ugly lookin’ first half to run away with the game after the break.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, Marquette feted Golden Eagles legend Dwyane Wade with a wonderful tribute to and celebration of his career at Marquette and Hall of Fame career in the NBA. It was a really neat deal, including Wade’s kids carrying out his letterman’s jacket, which the university never got time to give to him, and it was a surprise to Wade that they were there.

A delightful moment all the way around.

While this was happening on the Fiserv Forum court, I can’t help but wonder if MU head coach Steve Wojciechowski was lighting into his charges about how they were playing relative to the celebration on the court. The Golden Eagles found themselves trailing 33-25 at the break and were generally speaking outplayed by Providence. Given that everyone had to be aware of how good of an offensive rebounding team PC is heading into the game, it was really really bad that the Golden Eagles allowed the Friars to grab up nine of their misses in the first 20 minutes of the game, which was nearly 40% of them. That’s above and beyond great (KenPom.com says that UNLV is the best in the country at 40.8% for the season), and something that should really not be happening if you know that a team is good at something.

How much of Wojo’s halftime speech was devoted to “are you going to let all 17,000-whatever people sitting out there in that arena remember the time that we honored this program’s greatest player ever but lost the game going on that day?” You have to wonder, right?

Especially since Marquette outscored Providence 54-35 after the half on their way to the 79-68 victory. Marquette is now 5-1 in Big East play and 16-3 overall. Seems good.

Regardless of what Wojo used to start the fire, it was clear that he had lit a fire under the team during halftime. Markus Howard, who was tabbed as questionable on Friday but probable about 30 minutes before game time, cashed an and-1 floater to break the ice on the half, and at the 14:18 mark, Providence’s lead was completely gone as Howard split a pair of freebies to make it 38-all. A pair of free throws, again from Howard, a minute later gave Marquette their first lead since 2-0.

The two teams traded the lead back and forth for a bit before a 7-0 run by Marquette capped by — again — two free throws from Markus Howard, put the Golden Eagles up six and edging towards control of the game with 8:51 to go. An and-1 bucket from Ed Morrow — also upgraded from questionable on Friday — pushed the lead to seven on MU’s next possession, but the Friars weren’t going to go away quietly.

A Nate Watson dunk with 5:29 to go finally whittled the lead down to just two, 58-56 favoring the Golden Eagles. Getting a little tense. Luckily, the Hauser boys play for Marquette. Sam Hauser scored six of Marquette’s next eight points, which was followed by an and-1 bucket from younger brother Joey Hauser, and then Sam canned a triple after that. Marquette 72, Providence 61, 2:36 to go.

At that point, it was just a matter of holding it together for 160 straight seconds, and that’s easy enough to do when the sold-out Fiserv Forum crowd is trying to see if they can get the banners in the rafters to shake due to their thunderous ovations.

Remember that 40% offensive rebounding rate for the Friars in the first half? Down to just 30% in the second half, and that’s lower that PC’s season long average. Combine that with holding them to 46% shooting from the field, and mix in six of their 10 turnovers in the game, and you’ve got yourself a defensive recipe to rally and win.

Sam Hauser led all scorers with 25 points, just one more than Howard. The elder Hauser also chipped in seven rebounds and four assists and generally speaking was Providence’s worst nightmare. Howard struggled with his shooting — 4-for-15 overall, but 2-for-5 from distance — but it was, as you have already probably guessed, his free throw shooting that carried his contributions today. 14-for-16 from the line, along with nine (!) rebounds and three assists. Theo John was remarkably effective, putting up six rebounds and five blocks, with four and three of those respectively coming in the second half.

How about some highlights, courtesy of CBS Sports Network and GoMarquette.com?

And how about the Dwyane Wade video tribute?

And the Dwyane Wade halftime presentations?

Up Next: Brace yourselves. It’s time for DePaul. The Blue Demons make their first ever trip to Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night, with tipoff set for 7:30pm on FS1. DePaul has won three of their last four games to move to 3-3 in Big East play, beating Seton Hall twice and upending St. John’s in New York.