#20 Marquette Golden Eagles (14-5, 6-2 Big East) vs #22 Providence Friars (14-4, 6-1 Big East)
Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Time: 8pm Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Kam Jones, 15.8 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 6.4 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 7.9 apg
Providence Stats Leaders
Points: Bryce Hopkins, 16.2 ppg
Rebounds: Bryce Hopkins, 9.1 rpg
Assists: Jared Bynum, 4.4 apg
Providence Lineup Note: Jared Bynum has missed Providence’s last two games due to injury. Bryce Hopkins and Jayden Pierre are tied for second on the team in assists at 2.2 per game, while in the two games that Bynum has missed, Devin Carter had five assists to lead the team in a win over St. John’s and three to top the chart in a loss to Creighton.
Game Projection: Marquette has a 70% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 81-75.
Last Time Out: I think we all remember the double overtime game in Rhode Island back in December right before Christmas. Providence came away with the 103-98 victory after 50 minutes of action, led by 29 points and 23 rebounds from Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins. Marquette trailed by as many as 11 at one point in the first half after giving up an early 10-0, but made their own 13-2 run late to make it a one point game at the half. MU seemed to take control in the second half, leading 75-66 with seven minutes to go, but the Friars went on a 10-0 run to take a lead with a minute left. David Joplin sent the thing to overtime, where MU had to overcome giving up a 10-2 run immediately after the restart. Tyler Kolek did the heavy lifting there, including tying it at 89 to force a second overtime. Kolek and Olivier-Maxence Prosper both fouled out in the first two minutes of the second session, which is the kind of thing that happens when you’re whistled for 30 fouls in 50 minutes, but the thing was still tied at 98 with 95 seconds left. MU wouldn’t score again, and that was that.
Since Last We Met: That win by the Friars was, at the time, their fifth straight victory since losing to TCU on the road on the final day of November. Gutting that one out at home seemed to invigorate Providence as their next two were on the road, and they came away with a 20 point win over Butler and a 15 point win over DePaul. The Butler game was over at halftime, with PC up 48-18 less than a minute into the second session, and you could probably say the same about the DePaul game, since it was 42-23 with more than 18 minutes to go.
That brought them back home for a challenge against then-#4 UConn, and an 8-0 run in the middle of the second half tipped a game that was officially trending in PC’s direction. The Friars outscored the top five ranked Huskies 29-18 over the final 14 minutes, and that, combined with squeaking out a three-point win over St. John’s the following Saturday pushed Providence into the top 25 last week.
They also got a week off before their next game, a trip to visit a Creighton team deeply in need of a win after dropping road games to UConn and Xavier. The Friars couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from behind the three-point line, connecting on just four of 19 attempts all afternoon long, and a 13-2 run late in the first half gave the Bluejays a 14 point lead. That lead was gone with eight minutes to play, but the Jays assembled another 11-2 run to get the points they needed to hand Providence their first Big East loss of the season and their first since November.
Tempo Free Fun: Obviously the starting point here is figuring out what went right and what went wrong for the Golden Eagles in the first meeting with the Friars. There are some things that did work out pretty well, including shooting 59% inside the arc, with most of that work being done by Tyler Kolek and Kam Jones who combined to shoot 17-for-26 (65%) in the game. Guys not named Kam Jones shot 4-for-11 (36%) from behind the arc against Providence and since MU is shooting under 35% as a team this year and under 36% in league play, that seems pretty good, too. Marquette tracked down over 28% of their missed shots, which isn’t a good number, but that’s above average for the Golden Eagles to this point of the season, both overall and against Big East squads.
This starts bringing us around to things that did not go right.
It’s hard to point any specific fingers of blame at Tyler Kolek for how the game turned out since he went for 29 points on 11-for-15 shooting and added five rebounds, three assists, and five steals before fouling out, and he single handedly dragged the game to the second overtime session. However, we are left wondering what would have happened if the usually surehanded Kolek hadn’t recorded six turnovers in the game. It’s a rare spot in the season where he finished a game with more turnovers than assists, so it’s clear that cleaning up that particular aspect of the game would have easily tipped a double OT game the other direction.
That’s a minor tweak, and one that generally speaking will probably fix itself just by the nature of Tyler Kolek doing Tyler Kolek things. There are some aspects that are going to require major tweaks, and MU’s defensive rebounding is one of them. Providence got to 46% of their missed shots in the game, with Bryce Hopkins accounting for eight offensive rebounds all by himself. Hopkins’ eight on that end are more than any Marquette player had in the game in total, so you can see how that’s something that has to go differently this time around. The problem with that idea is, much like they were a month ago, Providence is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. KenPom currently has them at #6 in the country and the best in the Big East. Hopkins isn’t a super crazy great offensive rebounder, but he’s no slouch in that department either. It’s possible that MU’s attention was on Ed Croswell, the #5 individual offensive rebounder in the country by way of rate, and the Golden Eagles did limit him to three offensive rebounds in his 40 minutes of action. That feels like it’s a quality gameplan that can be repeated.... but Marquette has to figure out a way to not let Hopkins run wild while still containing Croswell.
In fact, “figure out a way to not let Hopkins run wild” is a pretty smart way to assemble an entire gameplan for this game, although it’s not 100% in Marquette’s control. Let’s be clear about this: Bryce Hopkins shot 18 of Providence’s 49 free throws in that double overtime thriller. Did Marquette commit a bunch of fouls against him in the game? Sure thing, the refs aren’t inventing contact, they’re just seeing it and blowing the whistle. The man is 6’7” and 220 pounds, and he was a top 40 prospect recruited to play at Kentucky for a reason. You have to be physical with him, that’s a fact of life, but Marquette has to figure out how to do it without committing fouls.... and that’s the part that’s not completely in their control. How much contact is too much is not a decision that MU gets to make for themselves. Marquette is not a good defensive rebounding team (literally one of the 70 worst teams in the country, literally the worst in the Big East right now, and they’re the worst two-point defense in the league, too. Whatever the plan was for Hopkins in December didn’t work, so we’ll have to wait and see what the plan is this time around.
While Providence’s 49 trips to the free throw line get a lot of attention in explaining how that game went, and deservedly so, we have to take a tiny peek at Marquette only forcing 16 turnovers in that 50 minute game. That was just under 19% of possessions, and while that’s a nice number, it’s not up to MU’s standards. For the season as a whole, the Golden Eagles are getting the ball back on just slightly less than 22% of the time, and the number in Big East play is still north of 21% of the time. Providence is the sloppiest ball control offense in the Big East at this point, and Marquette has to figure out a way to take advantage of that this time around. One thing that may dictate MU’s ability to create turnovers is the availability of Jared Bynum. Providence’s starting point guard has missed the Friars’ last two games due to some sort of abdominal issue, and he didn’t even practice with the team as recently as January 12th. The Friars coughed it up on nearly 21% of possessions against a St. John’s team that is interested in creating turnovers in the first game without Bynum and 17% of the time against a Creighton team that has almost zero interest in generating turnovers. Alyn Breed got the start for Bynum in the last two contests, and he has seven turnovers in 58 minutes of action.
Stat Watch: Tyler Kolek has more assists this season than Dwyane Wade did during the entire 2002-03 season. Yep. After seven assists on Sunday, Kolek is three assists away from tying and four away from passing Dominic James for the 8th most assists by a Marquette junior. He’s also seven away from tying Tony Smith for 7th place and eight away from tying Lloyd Walton for sixth place. I don’t think Kolek can get 22 assists in this one game and pass Aaron Hutchins for fifth place.
Stat Watch #2: Oso Ighodaro is three blocks away from tying and four away from passing Chris Otule for the 10th most rejections by a Marquette junior. He’s only 10 away from Dwyane Wade in seventh place, so once Ighodaro gets into the top 10, there’s going to be a quick ascension over the next several spots.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2, with a loss to Xavier on Sunday snapping a five game winning streak.
Providence Last 10 Games: 9-1, with a loss on Saturday to Creighton snapping a nine game winning streak.
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 21-14
Current Streak: The last two contests have gone to Providence, both in terms of who won the game and where the game was played. The Friars haven’t won in Milwaukee since January 2020, and they haven’t won in regulation in Milwaukee since February 2018.
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