Providence had never won in Milwaukee, compiling a 0-10 record on Marquette’s home courts and 0-9 in the Bradley Center, where the Golden Eagles have played since joining the Big East. That losing streak came to a sudden end on Saturday as PC managed to hold off the hot hosts, who dropped to 14-7 overall and 5-4 in league play.
Coming into the game, the Friars had lost two straight, including a tough 91-86 home loss to St. John’s on Wednesday; meanwhile, Marquette was red-hot, beating #7 ranked Creighton in Omaha and #1 Villanova at home within the last week. Which basically means that you never can tell what is going to happen in a Big East game.
The Eagles are among the nations’ best on offense, ranking high in field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage. Marquette’s offensive efficiency is impressive – five players average double digits in points and two more come off the bench averaging 9 points per game, making them a tough team to guard and one that can score from anywhere on the floor.
But, a “Villanova hangover” may have been in the air, as Marquette was cold in the first half. PC was cold, also, needing three and a half minutes to get on the scoreboard, but managed to grab the lead at 8-6 on an Isaiah Jackson three-pointer and not relinquish it. PC led 19-12 after a Jalen Lindsey three, 33-25 after two Emmitt Holt free throws and 38-26 with 1:46 to go after a Ryan Fazekas three.
The friars settled for an 8-point halftime lead, 40-32, as Marquette finished the half on a 6-2 run, keyed by Katin Reinhardt and Sam Hauser three-pointers. Still, Providence had put 40 up after starting the half slowly and withstanding several small runs.
PC led 44-37 on a Rodney Bullock (8 points, 7 rebounds) tip-in before Marquette righted the ship and began to heat up. The home team took their only lead of the second half, at 46-45 after two PC turnovers and a Luke Fischer dunk. To their credit, Providence rallied and a Fazekas three put PC back ahead to stay and Kyron Cartwright began to assert himself. Three consecutive Cartwright baskets and an assist to Jackson pushed PC ahead, 56-51, and Cartwright answered a Reinhardt three with one of his own. At this point, the PC point guard was seizing control of the game.
Three Andrew Rowsey free throws and a Rowsey layup knotted the score at 61-all, and the game remained tied at 65-all before PC answered again. A three by Lindsey and three free throws by Rodney Bullock pushed the lead to 71-65 with 3:41 left. Hauser answered with a three and Reinhardt connected on a tip to draw within one. PC surged once again behind a Cartwright layup, free throw and three-pointer to pull ahead, 77-70 with 1:21 to go. With just 47 seconds left, Cartwright hit one of two free throws for a 78-72 lead, setting up a wild finish.
Rowsey went into the air on the perimeter, drew a foul from Lindsey and threw in a left-handed three-point shot; then completed the four-point play with a free throw to cut the lead to two with 36 seconds on the clock. After Alpha Diallo hit on one of two free throws with 30 ticks left for PC’s last points of the game, Haanif Cheatham scored on a layup to cut PC’s lead to one. With 20 seconds left, Markus Howard fouled Bullock but Rodney missed both free throws and the Eagles had their chance.
Marquette called a timeout with 13 seconds left and Reinhardt drove into the lane for a scoop shot with six to play, but Bullock swatted the ball out of bounds. After another timeout, Reinhardt isolated Bullock again, but Rodney’s tough defense forced Reinhardt into a tough fall-away 15-footer and Holt grabbed the miss to seal PC’s win. Tough defense by the Friars prevailed, as Marquette missed 6 of the last 10 shots down the stretch. Still, they had closed the game on a 8-1 run and PC needed that stout man to man defense to offset missed all of the free throws that could have put the game away earlier.
The key to the win was, without question, Cartwright. The junior floor leader scored all 18 of his points in the second half (7-12 shooting), added 6 rebounds and 6 assists and his aggressive play down the stretch made him impossible to stop. Lindsey played all 40 minutes and added 14 points, including 4-5 from three; Holt had 13 and Fazekas had his best game in ages, with 11 points and 3-4 from three.
For Marquette, Rowsey led the way with 23, also with 18 in the second half, including 10-10 from the free throw line. Fischer and Howard each had 13 and Reinhardt had 9. As a team, Marquette shot 43% from the floor, made 10-25 threes and hit 18-23 free throws – all solid numbers. They outrebounded PC, 35-34 and limited turnovers to 8.
PC, on the other hand, shot 49% from the floor and 55% from three-point land, nailing 11-20. For the second consecutive game, the Friars struggled from the free throw line, missing front ends of one-and-ones and shooting 57% (16-28). That could have easily cost them another close game and must be cleaned up.
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Still, a win is a win and the Curse of the Bradley Center has been snapped. Now, PC can look forward to the Wildcats of Villanova invading the Dunk on Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. tip.