In what many would call the best game of the Big East conference season thus far, Steve Wojciechowski's Marquette Golden Eagles gutted out an impressive 96-91 double-overtime victory over the 20th-ranked Friars of Providence.
Led by freshman phenom Henry Ellenson and fellow diaper dandy Haanif Cheatham, the Golden Eagles firmly entrenched themselves in NCAA tournament talk by completing the season sweep of Ed Cooley's Friars. Ellenson was spectacular throughout, leading Wojciechowski's men in both points and rebounds with 26 and 16 respectively.
The double-double was Ellenson's 15th of the season, second only to super stud Ben Simmons among freshmen. Fellow frosh Cheatham had arguably his best game of the season, pouring in 21 for the second straight contest on 7-of-16 shooting while adding six boards to his stat line.
The Friars looked to be taking control in the first half behind 18 points from conference leading scorer Ben Bentil. However, just before half Bentil was forced to the bench after re-aggravating an ankle sprain that had limited for much of the last week. After the break, the Golden Eagles seemed to grab momentum as Cooley's men went cold.
Marquette led by as many as seven with four minutes to play before Ben and fellow dynamic duo member Kris Dunn decided to go absolutely bananas. Dunn and Bentil scored the Friars last eleven points of regulation as they clawed their way back into the game. A Dunn 3-pointer game the Friars the lead late before a Traci Carter layup for Marquette knotted the score at 72 and sent it into overtime.
Marquette again built a lead in the first overtime session, going up 81-76 with 43 seconds remaining. But Bentil and co. were not to be denied, going on a 5-0 run to tie it back up and send the game to a second overtime period despite Dunn picking up his fifth and final foul late in the OT period.
In the second overtime period, depth would ultimately win out for the Golden Eagles, who put four into double figures. Wojo's Golden Eagles men raced out to a 92-85 lead, and despite two late threes from Bentil giving him a season and career high 42 on the night, the Friars found this lead a bridge too far as their legs seemed to catch up with their minds.
The win takes the Golden Eagles to 16-9 (5-7) and puts them right in the heart of the Big East conference standings. Providence falls to 18-7 (6-6) on the year and all but end their hopes of catching Villanova or Xavier for the conference title. Marquette will now have a couple days off before hosting the Jays of Creighton Saturday at the Bradley Center, while the Friars continue to run the gauntlet in conference, returning home to face D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Georgetown.
Stay tuned to BECB for our 3 takeaways from tonight's double OT thriller.