Early lead powers Marquette to important win over Providence
Jan 26, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Players throw a towel at a bat flying in the Bradley Center during the second half of the game between the Providence Friars and Marquette Golden Eagles. Marquette won 81-71. Image by Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Davante Gardner scored 14 points and Marquette flustered Providence early before holding on for a 61-50 win Thursday night that snapped the Friars' five-game winning streak.
The Golden Eagles (12-9, 4-4 Big East) capitalized on a double-digit cushion built by forcing 11 first-half turnovers. Maybe this will jump-start Marquette's chances in the league in which they were considered the preseason favorite by coaches.
But Marquette nearly frittered away a 19-point lead. The teams reversed fortunes after halftime with the Golden Eagles having trouble making shots and getting sloppy under pressure for a six-minute stretch.
A three-point play by LaDontae Henton (18 points) got Providence (15-6, 5-3) within 37-34 with 11:33 left to cap a 16-0 run.
But Marquette settled down with seniors Gardner and Jamil Wilson getting key buckets down the stretch.
Gardner followed a bucket with two fouls shots with 1:41 left to get the lead back to eight, and Bryce Cotton lost the ball for a turnover on the next possession to seal Marquette's 10th straight win in the series.
Todd Mayo added eight points, including two foul shots with 48.6 seconds left to get the lead back to nine. Freshman Deonte Burton finished with nine points and six boards in giving the Golden Eagles a spark in his first collegiate start. Wilson had 11 points.
Henton went scoreless in the first half before going 8 of 12 after halftime to spark the Friars inside, while Cotton led all scorers with 20 points. The loss dropped Providence two games back in the loss column behind Creighton and Villanova at the top of the Big East standings.
The Friars haven't beaten Marquette since 2007, though they came close to snapping the skid in the most dramatic of ways after trailing by double digits for most of the first 21 minutes.
Providence had more turnovers than field goals (five) in a first half in which it shot 18 percent to trail 31-14.
The shots finally started falling after halftime.
The quick Cotton hit two buckets to follow Tyler Harris's 3 from the corner over two defenders to get within 37-31 before Henton's three-point play.
But coach Ed Cooley's team couldn't get the whole way back from a frustrating first half. It was the fewest points and lowest field-goal percentage allowed in a half this season by the Golden Eagles.
The physical defense had Providence out of sorts, but the Friars also missed their share of open looks.
The second half didn't start well either after Derrick Wilson lunged high for a steal off an inbounds pass and got the ball to Burton for a one-handed dunk.
Henton and Cotton did their best to try to rally their team before falling short. Harris added 11 rebounds.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams gave his starting lineup a jolt by inserting freshman Burton and fellow freshman Jujuan Johnson, and sending Gardner back to the bench, a role in which he excelled last season.