Marquette came off an eight-day layoff desperate for a league win at the Bradley Center. The Golden Eagles entered the game against Providence 10-6 overall, but just 1-3 in the league, having opened with a brutal stretch that included two games against Villanova and one against Georgetown. The Eagles had dropped close, hard-fought contests in those efforts, and came out against the Friars with intense determination.
With PC in a 2-3 zone and obviously keying on star forward Lazar Hayward, the Eagles used brilliant ball movement and penetration to create open three point looks for junior college star Darius Johnson-Odoms, who scored a career high 22 points on 8-14 shooting, including 4-8 threes, and Maurice Ackers, who also totaled a career-high 23 points on 8-9 shooting and an eye-popping 6-6 three pointers.
After the Eagles moved ahead 7-4 on an Ackers' three, there was no looking back. Providence tried to hang in as a Vincent Council three narrowed the gap to 12-9, but Marquette was hot and would stay hot. The Eagles came into the game shooting 45% from the three point line for the season, and they showed why against the Friars. Johnson-Odoms nailed a three and a lay-up and a Jimmy Butler lay-up would push the lead to 22-12 before a Marshon Brooks three broke the streak. Ten minutes in, Marquette had hit 7-8 threes.
A Joseph Fulce jam off a miss and another driving Johnson-Odoms lay-up made it 41-24 and the Friars were gasping for breath. Sharaud Curry buried a three, but Johnson-Odoms sliced through the match-up zone for another lay-up. And then, as if things weren't bad enough already, what happened next sealed PC's fate. With 2:28 to play in the half, and the Friars down 43-27, PC dropped back on defense and Jamine Peterson flagrantly swung his elbow up into Fulce's mouth, and was ejected from the game for a flagrant foul. At that point, Peterson had nine points and one rebound, and without him, PC's already stagnant offense was in real trouble.
Both teams cooled off over the final two minutes, and Marquette raced the locker-room with a 45-29 lead. Johnson-Odoms had 20 points, and Marquette had hit 8-13 threes, was out-rebounding PC 14-10, and the Friars seemed content to fire up three point attempts.
Without Peterson, the second half quickly turned into twenty minutes of garbage time. Marquette opened with a 12-2 run and led 57-31 before Council broke the run with a drive and short pop. The Eagles were never threatened and raced to leads of 67-39, 79-48, and 89-55 with three and a half minutes to play, after a Hayward drive and dunk.
Surprisingly, with its best inside scorer gone, PC seemed to make a more concerted effort to go inside in the second half. The Friars attempted nine threes in the second half, compared to 14 in the first, and spent more time with the ball in the paint. Unfortunately, PC had no answers on defense, and both the zone and man-to-man defenses were unable to deal with Marquette's hot-shooting offense and ball movement. The Golden Eagles had 24 assists (and just 11 turnovers) and shot 61% for the game (35-57), which included 13-21 threes (62%). Basically, Marquette shot over sixty per cent for the entire game and never cooled off. If the Eagles were presented with an open shot, they unfailingly knocked it down. With so few misses, there were few opportunities for rebounds, and Marquette also out-rebounded PC, 28-22.
Meanwhile, PC's offense struggling, hitting just 38% of its shots and just 7-23 threes. There were just two bright spots for the Friars. Vincent Council scored a career high 24 points on 8-16 shooting and dished out four assists, as he repeatedly drove the lane in the second half and fed teammates with pretty passes. And Bilal Dixon scored 9 points, had 3 blocks and had 4 rebounds and played hard throughout the lopsided contest. Meanwhile, veterans Brooks, Curry and Brian McKenzie were largely ineffective as the game slipped away from PC.
By the time six minutes remained, the Friars were playing with an all-freshman line-up, with Dixon, Council, Johnnie Lacy, Duke Mondy and James Still on the floor. Although that line-up fared little better than the more veteran one, the playing time was a valuable experience and offered a glimpse into the future for Friar fans.
The Friars now return home and have six days off before their next game, a January 23 tilt against South Florida. With a monstrous stretch of games looming after that one, the South Florida game becomes a must-win situation.
Marquette Feasts On Friars, 93-63
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