Scoring woes, inability to convert down the stretch hands Marquette its second loss in BIG EAST play

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Scoring woes, inability to convert down the stretch hands Marquette its second loss in BIG EAST play

Markus Howard (0) dribbles the ball in Marquette's 81-80 overtime loss to Providence. The senior guard scored 39 points.

Markus Howard (0) dribbles the ball in Marquette's 81-80 overtime loss to Providence. The senior guard scored 39 points.

Photo by John Steppe

Markus Howard (0) dribbles the ball in Marquette's 81-80 overtime loss to Providence. The senior guard scored 39 points.

Photo by John Steppe

Photo by John Steppe

Markus Howard (0) dribbles the ball in Marquette's 81-80 overtime loss to Providence. The senior guard scored 39 points.

Aimee Galaszewski

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For the first time this season, the Golden Eagles’ fate came down to the final five minutes.

However, a 40-point surge in the second half could not overcome early offensive struggles as Providence handed Marquette its first loss at Fiserv Forum in an 81-80 overtime decision.

“You have to be proud of both teams,” Friars’ head coach Ed Cooley said. “The kids played their hearts out. (It was a) high level BIG EAST game.”

Despite offensive struggles in the first half, the Golden Eagles had a 67-64 advantage with 18 seconds remaining in regulation following a Brendan Bailey 3-pointer. Then, Providence’s sophomore guard A.J. Reeves countered by hitting a three with four seconds left.

“They had kids step up,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “It’s a tough loss. We were in position to win the game. The kid, Reeves, had a heck of a shot there at the end of the game to force overtime.”

That’s not the only crucial shot Reeves made. He also started off overtime with a layup and connected for a 3-pointer to give the Friars a 78-75 lead at the 1:19 mark.

“I just wanted to be a team player and do what my team asks me to do,” Reeves said. “Down the stretch, coach said, ‘You’re going to hit the shot.’ That type of belief in me and the team, it carries a long way on the court.”

With four second left in overtime, Bailey swished two free throws. His third would’ve faced a double-overtime, but he missed. That ended Marquette’s undefeated home record.

“At the end, our guys showed some fortitude, we showed some resilience and a lot a lot of progress with our respect to keeping our composure and winning the game,” Cooley said. “It showed our maturity. It showed our toughness. … This is a really hard building to play in.”

The Golden Eagles’ second-half comeback didn’t look all that promising, though.

Marquette’s offense was inconsistent in the first half, going on multiple scoring droughts. Twelve minutes into the game, Providence led 17-10 as the Golden Eagles had four turnovers in the last five minutes and were shooting 25%. At this point, Markus Howard scored four points on 2-for-9 shooting.

“We didn’t have the same pop and energy to start the game that we had on Saturday,” Wojciechowski said. “We didn’t work very hard offensively. That led to some really difficult shots. … I thought we were impatient (in) the first half.”

The Friars’ largest lead of the night was 27-16 with 3:58 remaining in the first half. But Bailey’s four-point play brought Marquette within seven points. The Golden Eagles headed into the break trailing 32-27.

Following the break, it was all Howard. The nation’s leading scorer had the first eight points after halftime. He finished with a game-high 39 points on 14-for-33 shooting, six 3-pointers, five rebounds and two assists.

“He is so dynamic of a player,” Cooley said. “He can score it. He can shoot it. He’s hard to guard. … When a kid on the other team is scoring at that level from all over the place, we were just really fortunate and happy to get the win.”

At the 15:42 mark in the second half, Marquette was shooting 83% from the field and was holding the Friars to 1-for-5 shooting. The Golden Eagles received their first substantial lead with a 43-39 advantage with 13:44 remaining.

“We played harder in the second half in terms of our defensive intensity,” Wojciechowski said. “We had a number of guys, three guys, shoot double-figure shots. We had some good looks at the basket. We just have to convert.”

Besides Howard, Bailey contributed 19 points and Sacar Anim finished with nine points and six rebounds.

Despite outscoring Providence 40-35 in the second half, it was still not enough as the Friars had 42 points combined from Reeves, Maliek White and Nate Watson. Wojciechowski called their bench “phenomenal.”

White had a team-high 19 points as Alpha Diallo ended with the only double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Two Friars, Watson and starting guard David Duke, fouled out in the second half.

“It’s become a time where anybody can step up,” Providence’s Kalif Young said. “Everyone has a chance to show up and play big for us. It’s trusting one another and knowing that we can all help our team.”

Marquette (11-4, 1-2 BIG EAST) heads to Seton Hall Saturday, looking for the team’s first road win in conference play. The game tips off at Prudential Center at 3 p.m.

“We’ll take what we can learn from tonight and then start getting ready for Seton Hall,” Wojciechowski said. “They’re a terrific basketball team. It will be another battle like every game in the BIG EAST is.”

 

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at isabel.comerford@marquette.edu and on Twitter @zoe_comerford.