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#11 Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at Providence Friars

The Golden Eagles head to Rhode Island and The Dunk with an eye on staying in first place in the Big East.

Big East Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals
More pictures of the Dalmation mascot, please.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

#11 Marquette Golden Eagles (22-4, 11-2 Big East) vs Providence Friars (15-12, 5-9 Big East)

Date: Saturday, February 23, 2019
Time: 11am Central
Location: Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, RI

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 25.7 ppg
Rebounds: Sam Hauser, 6.7 rpg
Assists: Markus Howard, 4.0 apg

Providence Stats Leaders

Points: Alpha Diallo, 16.4 ppg
Rebounds: Alpha Diallo, 8.1 rpg
Assists: Alpha Diallo, 3.1 apg

Current KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #25
Providence: #89
KenPom Projection: Marquette has a 63% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 72-68.

Earlier This Season: Marquette rallied from down eight at halftime by pounding the Friars 54-35 after the break to win 79-68. Markus Howard made his return to the lineup after missing almost all of the Georgetown game with a back injury and scored 24 points, but it was Sam Hauser who led MU on the day with 25 points along with seven rebounds and four assists.

Since Last We Met: The loss to Marquette sent Providence down to 1-4 in Big East play. They immediately won their next two games — at Xavier and at home against DePaul — both in fairly dramatic fashion, but they’ve lost five of their last seven at this point. The wildest part about the entire experience? The two wins in their last seven games? Both against St. John’s, and neither one was particularly close by the end, either. To give you an idea of exactly what Providence is capable of: The first St. John’s game came immediately after the Johnnies had just become the first road team to win at Fiserv Forum this season. And then they got clocked in the head by the Friars at Carnesecca Arena. In any case, Providence is essentially playing to not finish last in the league at this point, as they’re currently in a three-way tie for the basement with Creighton and DePaul.

Tempo Free Fun: First things first, we have to talk about how Marquette defeated Providence in the first meeting. The problem is that it’s kind of hard to do. If you look at full game numbers, the advantages that the Golden Eagles had overall are clearly evident. They had a better effective field goal percentage (52% vs 44%), they turned the ball over less (9% of possessions vs 15%), and they got to the line way more than the Friars did (46% free throw rate vs 37%). If you prefer points per possession numbers, MU had the advantage there, 1.14 vs 0.99.

However.....

Providence led by eight at halftime, 33-25, and the lead had floated around nine for most of the final 10 minutes of the opening session. Marquette won this game because of a monster second half that led to them posting 1.50 points per possession and shooting to the tune of 63.8% in effective field goal percentage. That’s NUTS. Sam Hauser was an unholy terror, putting up 20 points on seven shots, and Markus Howard had 14 points in the final 20 minutes on just eight field goal attempts thanks to a 10-for-12 performance from the free throw line.

In other words, Marquette’s offense was experiencing a damn out-of-body experience and absolutely torched Providence in the second half. Can MU replicate their 40 minute numbers on the road? Yeah, probably. Can they replicate that kind of a second half in order to resuscitate their chances of winning? No, probably not. We’ve seen the Golden Eagles put together powerful second half after powerful second half again and again this season, but this one was at a completely different level. It probably won’t happen again, and hopefully it won’t have to happen.

I think my biggest issue with what happened in that game was the rebounding situation. Okay, look. Providence is a great offensive rebounding team with Alpha Diallo and Nate Watson both sitting in the top 425 in the country in individual rates according to KenPom. They’re #53 in the country as a team, so yeah, they’re going to go after their misses really well.... which is really important because there’s a lot of misses. They’re a bad shooting team at #302 in the country in effective field goal percentage. But Marquette is a very good defensive rebounding team, ranking #70 in the country on that end, and somehow, the Friars finished the game with a better than their average performance in offensive rebounding rate.

Ultimately, that’s fine. It’s something that they’re very good at, and even though MU is strong in the counter to it, PC still won the battle. Fine. It happens. The problem was that it carried over to the other end. Marquette had zero offensive rebounds in the first half. None. oh-fer-18. That’s bad enough at face value, but the catch here is that Providence isn’t particularly great on the defensive glass, ranking #209 in the country in defensive rebounding rate. Only Diallo is nationally ranked on KenPom.com. Marquette isn’t a particularly great offensive rebounding team in their own right (probably due to the fact that you don’t need to try very hard when you’re the 31st best shooting team in the country), but they’re better on the offensive glass (#171) than PC is on the defensive glass. They were fine in the second half of the game in Milwaukee (23%), but there’s really zero excuse for going a full half of basketball against a lousy defensive rebounding team without a single second chance. Even more so when you’re shooting just 28% and are getting more than your fair share of opportunities.

While Providence is not a good shooting team, Marquette will have to contend with one thing in this game that they did not in the first encounter. That’s AJ Reeves, PC’s phenomenal freshman who missed the trip to Milwaukee due to injury. On the season, he’s shooting 42% from long range. Since returning on January 27th against DePaul, Reeves is only knocking in 34% of his three-point attempts, but he’s 4-for-8 since being re-inserted into the starting lineup three games ago. Even with his slight downturn since coming back from his injury, Reeves is still the best three-point shooter on the team by a country mile, with Diallo coming in second best at 35%.

The Golden Eagles are also going to need to solve their Nate Watson problem. The sophomore from Virginia went 8-for-14 against Marquette to finish with 21 points and five rebounds, all in just 26 minutes. God bless him, but this is a guy averaging 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds while playing 23.3 minutes a game. He can’t have that kind of an impact against Marquette again. Watson is listed at 6’10” and 250 pounds, so that means that he’s getting defended by Theo John and Ed Morrow..... who racked up four fouls each in the first meeting. In fairness, one of Morrow’s personal fouls was a completely unwarranted technical foul as the referees allowed the Friars to push and shove and lean on Morrow while clearing up a tieup when Morrow was clearly just sitting there patiently waiting for the clear up. They took their time and let PC do whatever they wanted and then Morrow lost his cool. I don’t blame Ed in the slightest there.... but it did add a foul to his total for the game, and Marquette could have really used that foul to defend Watson at some point along the line. I don’t know how much of those other seven fouls were ticky-tack or not, but no matter what, Marquette has to figure out a game plan to defend Watson without giving up the fouls.

Going into the first game, the big thing to worry about was defending Alpha Diallo who was and still is leading Providence in points, rebounds, and assists. I think MU defended Diallo pretty well, as he assembled a 16/6/1 line in 35 minutes before fouling out. Diallo averages 16/8/3 at this point of the season, so I’m totally fine with seeing a 16/6/1 coming from him again in this encounter. Whatever Marquette did the first time was good enough to corral him, so hopefully a lot of it keeps right on working.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 9-1 thanks to those jerks at St. John’s

Providence Last 10 Games: 4-6, with Wednesday’s win over St. John’s snapping a two game skid

All Time Series: Marquette leads 18-9.

Current Streak: Marquette has now won two of the last three against the Friars thanks to the win at Fiserv Forum earlier this season. MU has also won two out of the last three at The Dunk: Markus Howard’s 52 point explosion and Henry Ellenson’s last second block of Kris Dunn were the wins, while the Slip ‘n’ Slide game was the loss.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that follow the whole Big East
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer
@cf_gardner - The Athletic MU beat writer