Marquette Ruins Friars Dunk Party

The 14th ranked team in the nation in your building. A national television audience. A chance for a signature win. Thirty minutes of great team basketball. And then it all came apart for Providence, as the Friars dropped a 91-82 heartbreaker to Marquette.

What could have been a night to remember turned into a nightmare for Providence College. A boisterous crowd of 10,221 turned out for a 9:00 start on a frigid night, and the Friars started off by giving the fans something to cheer for.

With two refs from the more finesse oriented ACC calling the game, Providence found itself over the limit with fouls five minutes into the game, and trailing 11-10 after a jumper by Wesley Matthews, but PC grabbed the lead on a driving layup by Geoff McDermott, and wouldn't let go. A 7-0 run pushed the lead to 22-15, and McDermott and Marshon Brooks continued to pour it on, maintaining a 32-25 advantage.

After Marquette closed to within 32-28, McDermott connected on another layup, Jeff Xavier drilled a three pointer, Sharaud Curry followed with another three and a free throw for a 41-32 lead. Joseph Fulce and Jerel McNeal answered with layups, but free throws by Xavier and a layup by Brooks put PC up at the half by a 45-40 count.

PC had played superbly in the first half, hitting 56% of their shots and committing only five turnovers. In particular, McDermott, with 8 points and 11 rebounds, Brooks, with 10 points and Xavier with 10, had stepped up against the constant, physical pressure that McNeal, Matthews and Dominic James were providing. The only real negative seemed to be PC's inability to get stops on the defensive end.

The second half started out well for the Friars. Layups by Jonathan Kale, who was in early foul trouble, and McDermott pushed the lead to nine. With the Friars up 49-44, disaster struck for Providence at the 17:12 mark. Jeff Xavier went up for a jumper, and appeared to crash into Fulce's elbow. Replays showed that Fulce's left hand had inadvertently scraped Xavier's eye, and the senior fell to the floor writhing in pain. As play continued, Fulce fouled McDermott, who stepped to the line for free throws as Xavier was helped to the bench. At that point, a fan scrambled over the PC bench and ran onto the court, confronting the referee, as McDermott's first free throw went in. Security rushed the court and escorted the fan, identified by the television crew as Xavier's brother, out of the arena.

Without their senior co-captain, the Friars extended their lead on a three by Brooks, a dunk by Brian McKenzie, and when McDermott dunked with 14 minutes left, PC was up 61-48. But every time that the Friars threatened to blow the game open, Marquette answered. A McNeal three cut the lead to ten, and after free throws by McKenzie, James answered with a three. A turnover by McKenzie led to a Lazar Hayward dunk, and Hayward was just getting started.

A three pointer by Curry was immediately answered by a three by Hayward. After Curry hit two free throws to make it 72-64 with 10:15 to play, the wheels would come off. In the final ten-plus minutes, PC would score just ten points, as Marquette ended the game on a 27-10 run. McNeal hit a jumper and after an ill-advised three attempt by McKenzie, Hayward connected with a three. Another Hayward three trimmed the lead to 74-72 and Marquette smelled blood. A strip on McDermott led to a James emphatic dunk that tied the score at 76-all with 5:23 to play.

After two free throw misses by McDermott, Hayward nailed another three to put Marquette up 79-76, although a layup and one free throw by Brooks kept the score knotted at 79-79. In the final two minutes, the Friars cracked. First, McNeal buried a three, followed by a rushed three point attempt by Brooks. Then Brooks fouled Matthews on a runout layup and Matthews converted the and-one for an 85-79 lead with a minute and a half left.

McDermott threw away the in-bounds pass, and McNeal hit two free throws for an eight point lead. Brooks missed a jumper, McNeal hit a free throw, Curry missed a desperation three and Matthews scored on a layup for a 90-79 advantage. McDermott threw away another in-bounds pass, but Maurice Acker missed his free throw, and Brooks stopped the 11-0 run with a three pointer. McNeal converted a free throw and Brooks and Curry missed last second threes and the Golden Eagles had pulled off the comeback win, running PC off the court in the last two minutes.

Statistically, the Friars deserved better. The team hit 56% of its shots, outrebounded Marquette 38-27, had 5 blocks and shot a not so terrible 6-18 from three. Where PC was done in was poor free throw shooting (14-23, but misses at critical junctures), thirteen second half turnovers, and an inability to get stops, especially from the perimeter. Marquette buried 7-14 threes in the second half alone, and most were wide open attempts. The loss of Xavier was critical to PC's perimeter defense, as most of Marquettes' threes came after his injury. In addition, the Friars simply could not get stops of any kind. Marquette shot 51% for the game, and it was obvious that PC would have to outscore the Eagles. The Friars were successful until the ten minute mark, when the offense went cold, and missed free throws and turnovers did them in.

For the game, McDermott had 15 points, 17 rebounds and 6 assists, but also had 6 turnovers and hit just 3-9 free throws. Brooks had 21 points, while Curry chipped in with 11 but committed 4 turnovers. Marquette was led by McNeal and Hayward, each with 25 points, and Matthews with 22.

Now, PC must quickly turn around for an 8:00 Monday night game against Cincinnati at the Dunk. And they'll likely be shorthanded. The tests continue in the physical Big East.

NOTES: Word around the Dunk after the game was that "Xavier's eyeball had almost popped out" and that he would need surgery. More will be known today or tomorrow… McDermott was said to have "tweaked a hamstring". His status in unknown… Kyle Wright, whose Monroe Community College squad was participating in a tournament at CCRI, was in the house with his parents… The Friar second annual Alumni Game was a fun affair, with appearances by Trent Forbes, Rob Phelps, Harold Starks, Jacek Duda, Joe Hassett, John Nolan, Charlie Burch, and Billy Fields, among others. Ernie DiGregorio's White Team beat Marvin Barnes' Black Team, and Paul Oristaglio was the leading scorer, although Forbes was the best player, by far, and Fields flashed his long range shooting touch.

Scout Friars Top Stories