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The Quick & The Dirty: Providence 84, #19 Marquette 72

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The Golden Eagles never really challenged the Friars on this trip to Rhode Island.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Providence Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Turnover, two free throws, turnover, two free throws, miss, miss, bucket.

That was Marquette’s first seven possessions on Saturday afternoon at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Somehow, they were miraculously only down four, 10-6, with 14:24 to go in the first half at that point, but it’s also a wonderful summary of how the rest of the game went for the Golden Eagles. Providence came out of the locker room ready to dominate the day, and that’s exactly what they did by handing #19 Marquette an 84-72 loss. The Golden Eagles are now 17-9 overall and fall to 7-7 in conference action through 14 games.

This game was, in effect, a 40 minute display of Markus Howard insisting that he could win a game for Marquette and head coach Steve Wojciechowski letting him do it. Marquette’s star senior finished with 38 points on 10-for-25 shooting, but that doesn’t really tell the story. For whatever godforsaken reason, Marquette ratcheted up the intensity on defense in the final two minutes or so. David Duke hit a free throw for Providence to make it a 15 point game, 75-60, with 2:19 to go. After that point, Markus Howard contributed 10 of his 38 points, missing just one free throw in that stretch. Thus, up until then, Howard was 8-for-23 from the field and 2-for-8 from long range. That absolutely stinks, and the fact that he was 10-11 from the free throw line before the Duke FT doesn’t really make up for it.

What did Marquette get from that intensity for the final 200 seconds or so? Wobbling a 15 point game down to 11 with 46 seconds to go, and then again with 21 seconds to go. Yay. That was useless and dumb.

Before I turned the TV off, Fox’s Casey Jacobsen made a fantastic point about the game. He stated that Providence held Howard to 38 points. Jacobsen then owned up to the fact that he said “held to 38 points” because no one else on Marquette’s roster took more than six shots the entire game. Two guys had six: Sacar Anim, who scored two points the entire game, and Greg Elliott, who was MU’s second leading scorer with 10 points on his six attempts. We’ve said it a bunch of times in a bunch of places: Marquette is at their most effective when Howard gets two other guys — it doesn’t matter who from game to game — to be effective threats. That never happened in this game, and it’s largely because the coaching staff let Howard go to town.

It has been 13 days since television cameras caught Steve Wojciechowski telling Markus Howard “you don’t have to do it alone.” Marquette won that game, but they’ve lost the three games since then. The road trip to #15 Villanova? Eh, you can chalk that one up to a scheduled loss if you want. At home against #15 Creighton? Not surprising given the opponent quality, but also a game that Marquette absolutely should have been able to win. Today in Rhode Island? Much more winnable than the last two, at least you’d think so based on the entirety of the season for the two teams involved and even more so based on the fact that Marquette would want to get revenge for the earlier loss this year to the Friars as well as not end up with three straight losses. And yet, past the 10 minute mark of the first half, the Golden Eagles were largely speaking non-competitive against Providence.

In those last three games, Markus Howard is shooting 37.3% from the field. His effective field goal percentage — essentially giving him bonus points for making threes — is 46.6%.

Ridiculous. And Howard getting free reign to do whatever he wanted in this game while Providence as a team was hitting shots from all over the place and running wild on MU’s objectively terrible defense was absolutely not helpful.

There are four regular season games left to go. Two at home, two on the road.

Someone, and I don’t care who, needs to fix all of this right now.