The Marquette Golden Eagles never trailed in an 86-62 victory over the Providence Friars Sunday afternoon at the Bradley Center. Junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom led the way with 17 points, sophomore guard Junior Cadougan recorded his first career double-double, and redshirt sophomore center Chris Otule netted 16 of his own in the win.
The Golden Eagles scored the first 10 points of the game and never looked back, leading by as many as 14 in the opening half while holding Providence to just 29 percent shooting.
The half belonged to Otule on the offensive end, as he scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and hauled in three offensive rebounds, including two thunderous put-back dunks to get the crowd of 16,768 on their feet.
If the first half was Otule’s show, the second half belonged to Cadougan. He picked up six of his career-high 10 assists in the half and was the lead man on many of Marquette’s fast-break opportunities, helping Marquette to 26 points in transition.
Along with his assists, Cadougan finished with 10 points and added six rebounds, two steals, and just two turnovers in 30 minutes.
“I think Junior has always been a really good player,” coach Buzz Williams said. “And I think his body’s now just in a groove where he is able to play extended minutes. He’s always been good offensively, and I think he just makes the game really easy. Our guys want to play with (him) because they know he makes the game easier for them.”
As a team, the Golden Eagles turned the ball over 17 times, but made up for it by shooting 52.5 percent from the field and making 20 of 24 free throws, including 11 of 12 in the second half.
For as efficient as Marquette’s offense was, its defense was just as good. The Friars entered the game as the Big East’s highest scoring team (73.8 ppg) but were held to 31 percent shooting and made just 6 of 21 3-pointers in the loss. The Big East’s leading scorer, Marshon Brooks, scored just 17 points, more than eight points below his season average.
Williams said Brooks approached him after the game and told him Marquette’s defensive scheme to contain him was the best he had seen from a team all season. Providence head coach Keno Davis was just as impressed.
“I thought they did a good job of being very physical and bumping and banging with him,” Davis said. “When a game is called like that, you’ve got to be able to react and respond in a better way than we did.”
Junior forward Jae Crowder also notched his second career double-double in the win, quietly going for 12 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. He was a key reason Marquette won the rebounding battle 48-33 and scored 22 points off the bench, compared to just seven for Providence.
It was the second straight win for the Golden Eagles in the last four days, giving them nine wins in the Big East and moving them into a five-way tie for seventh place in the Big East. The top eight teams in the standings receive a first round bye in the Big East Tournament. With two more games remaining before the Golden Eagles head to New York, Cadougan said the team’s demeanor has changed on how to close out games, resulting in positive gains.
“I think it was just fighting for 40 minutes,” Cadougan said. “Before, we would play for like 36 minutes, and that’s not enough in the Big East. You need to learn how to play for 40 minutes, and I think we have adjusted to that.”