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Marquette throttles #16 Providence

Shaka Smart claims first Big East win

Marquette v Miami Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“Their purpose and energy was much greater than ours.” Those were the words of Providence Friars (13-2, 3-1) coach Ed Cooley after his team got shellacked by the Marquette Golden Eagles (9-6, 1-3) at Fiserv Forum. Marquette entered the game on a four-game losing streak, and it was obvious they felt backed into a corner.

Desperate teams are dangerous teams, and Marquette proved that early Tuesday night. Thanks to a pair of early Providence turnovers, the Golden Eagles scored the game’s first six points. Justin Lewis’s poster dunk over Noah Horchler put the exclamation point on the game’s early minutes and jump-started a 12-0 run for Marquette.

It was Al Durham who would turn the momentum back to the Friars. After sinking a free throw, Durham stole the ball from Darryl Morsell and knocked down a three. Ighodaro would answer with a lay-in, but that was all Providence would allow for over four minutes as their defense stiffened. Alyn Breed’s transition layup capped a 12-2 run that cut the deficit to 22-18 with less than eight minutes remaining in the first half.

Just as quickly as the score tightened, Marquette regained a double-digit point lead and took command of the game. Four threes, 2 from Kam Jones and one each from Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Tyler Kolek, highlighted a 20-0 run that saw Marquette’s lead expand to 42-18. Kur Kuath’s paint presence influenced Providence scorers as the Friars were held without a point for over six minutes. Two Durham free throws and a Breed basket late in the period cut the deficit to 42-22 at the end of the first half.

The Golden Eagles picked up right where they left off in the second half. Nate Watson missed a shot on Providence’s first possession, and Kuath responded with a thundering dunk at the other end. Marquette would pour it on in the second half, hitting five threes and shooting better than 53 percent from the field in the period. Justin Lewis scored a career-high 23 points and notched his fifth double-double of the season. Kam Jones, back from the health and safety protocols, nailed four shots from deep for the third time in his young career. Kur Kuath recorded a career-high seven blocks and routinely disrupted Providence’s offense anywhere near the rim.

“They really took it to us. You know I mean definitely took us to the woodshed, remarked Ed Cooley after the game. “We just didn’t have it tonight for whatever reason.”

Marquette’s 88-56 victory was the most lopsided defeat for the Friars since losing to Florida 83-51 in the 2019-20 season. Providence would go 13-6 after that game, setting a school record with 12 Big East wins. Could a similar rebound happen? Ed Cooley was confident that his team would be prepared for their meeting with St. John’s on Saturday.

For Shaka Smart, this is his first Big East win since being hired at Marquette. The win also marks the first for the program in nearly a month after a four-game losing skid that featured a trio of tough conference losses. They’ll look to make it two in a row when they head to Georgetown for their conference opener on Friday night.