Milwaukee, WI – The Marquette Golden Eagles play their home games in the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but if the Providence Friars think of it as more of a house of horrors, there’s good reason.
Breaking out of a 33-33 halftime tie to establish control of a game it would never relinquish, Marquette defeated Providence on Saturday afternoon, 75-66 to keep the Friars winless in eight Bradley Center games since Marquette joined the Big East Conference in 2006.
“We haven’t been able to play well in this building,” said Providence Coach Ed Cooley. “You have to be disciplined and detailed to win on the road. We didn’t play physical and tough enough and we made too many senseless turnovers.”
Entering the game averaging 11.9 turnovers per game, the Friars gave away the ball 11 times in the first half alone en route to a game total of 17 turnovers. Providence point guard Kris Dunn, fourth in the country with a per game assist average of 7.4 and coming off a 12 assist game in a victory over Creighton on New Year’s Eve, eclipsed his assist average against Marquette with eight helpers. But it was his eight turnovers, five of them in the first nine minutes of the game, that helped stake Marquette to an early lead and force the Friars to play uphill all game.
“I was surprised by our turnovers. I thought (Marquette’s Juan) Anderson was really good at the top of their 1-3-1 zone. Credit Marquette. They played well, but this is a coaching loss and I will take full responsibility for not having us ready to play. We look forward to seeing them at the Dunk,” said Cooley in referencing the rematch between the two schools on March 1 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.
The 6-7 Anderson led Marquette with 18 points showing no fear of the taller Providence bigs to score five of his six baskets in the paint. His lay-up from a pass by Jujuan Johnson gave Marquette its biggest lead of the game at 58-46 with ten minutes remaining, and his two free throws later in the half helped put the brakes to a Providence rally and increase Marquette’s lead to 63-55.
As one of three seniors on the Golden Eagles along with Matt Carlino and Derrick Wilson, Anderson said it was incumbent upon the seniors to help Marquette erase the memory of its opening Big East season loss to DePaul on New Year’s Eve. “Our leadership–Derrick, Matt and myself–we did not want any letdowns today. That was the difference from the DePaul game.”
“Give credit to our leaders,” added Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski. “I love how our seniors communicated. They had great voices on the court and in our huddles.”
Dunn and 6-6 small forward LaDontae Henton entered the game playing as well as any pair of teammates in the Big East, if not the entire country. In addition to his 7.4 per game assist total, Dunn checked in with a 2.9 steal per game average, good enough for ninth in the country. His 12.7 point per game scoring average, more than double his career scoring average entering the season, placed him second on the team.
As impressive as Dunn has played leading the Friars to victories over Notre Dame, Florida State and Rhode Island, and playing Kentucky to within a four-point, half-time deficit, it has been Henton who has taken his game to another level this season.
The left-handed wing, who twice this season has gone off for thirty-plus point games in Providence wins against Notre Dame and Creighton, scored 28 against the Golden Eagles trying time and again to rally the Friars in the second half with timely baskets. Henton had his catch-and-shoot game cooking from behind the three-point arc making good on half his twelve attempts. Converting on 75 percent of his free throws entering the game, Henton made all four of his attempts against Marquette.
Entering the game leading the Big East in minutes played per game at 35, Henton played all 40 minutes against Marquette. Much more than a long-range shooter, Henton embraced doing dirty work in the paint collecting a team-high five rebounds and blocking two shots.
“LaDontae was named second team all-conference in the preseason,” said Cooley shaking his head at what he just said. “If there’s a better player in the Big East, or in college basketball for that matter, I’d like to see who he is.”
Wojciechowski also praised the Big East’s leading scorer by saying, “Henton is a terrific player. One reason we played a zone was to eliminate Providence’s ability to score in the paint, and Henton shot the lights out from behind the three-point line. That kid is a unique scorer.”
Marquette received a huge lift from freshman wing Sandy Cohen, who after not taking off his warm ups in the Marquette loss to DePaul, heard his name called early against Providence and responded with a career high 12 points, all in the first half. Cohen’s perfect afternoon included making all four of his field goals, two from distance, and both his free throws. “Sandy was terrific,” said Wojciechowski. “We would not have won this game without his 12 points.”
“As a freshman, I never could have done what Sandy Cohen did after not playing in the DePaul game,” said Anderson. “He remained positive and big props to him. I’d give him the game ball.”
Johnson, a sophomore wing for Marquette, touched a number of areas in the stat sheet playing a team-high 25 minutes off the bench. Although making only three of thirteen shots from the field in scoring nine points, Johnson led the Golden Eagles with ten rebounds and his five assists and two steals tied him for team honors. “Jujuan gave us a great spark,” said the first-year Marquette coach. “He’s got a real nice role for our team. I love to see his maturation.”
Both teams left the Bradley Center with 1-1 conference records, each protecting its home court and dropping a game on the road. Providence, now 11-4 overall, travels to Indianapolis for a game against Butler on January 6. Marquette upped its record on the season to 9-5 and heads to Washington D.C. for a mid-week game against Georgetown on January 6.
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