Friar Basketball

Five Takeaways vs. Marquette

Markus Howard

It’s hard to remember anything like what we saw from Markus Howard on Wednesday night.

It wasn’t just that the sophomore scored 52 points in a 95-90 victory over Providence.

42 of them came after halftime.

30 of his points came in the second half, and none were bigger than his final six with his team trailing by six at the end of regulation.

Howard banked in one of his 11 made 3-pointers at the 1:06 mark to bring the Golden Eagles to within three, and then tied the game with a layup and free throw 40 seconds later.

Ed Cooley called Howard’s performance “superhuman” after the game, but Providence’s coach was more focused on what his team didn’t do to close this one out. Namely…

Execution Down the Stretch. The hits keep on coming for PC this season. On Wednesday, leading scorer Rodney Bullock sat with a stomach bug, while Jalen Lindsey played 45 minutes with a 103 degree temperature.

With Kyron Cartwright’s status in question after he hurt his foot against Creighton on Sunday, it looked to be a recipe for disaster.

Yet, there the Friars were with a six-point lead with just over a minute to play. They’d weathered Howard’s amazing night, and went on a 14-2 run late in the second half to take control of this one down the stretch. It looked to be a repeat of last year’s late-season thriller against Marquette when PC ripped off a 14-1 run to close it out.

So, what will keep Cooley up at night?

It probably won’t be Howard’s banked-in 3 to keep Marquette alive. Bad breaks like that happen in basketball.

The next three possessions will require NyQuil.

Providence turned the ball over with under 40 seconds remaining when Lindsey and Cartwright failed to connect on a standard pass to the corner — where Cooley said the team wanted the ball in that situation. They briefly lost eye contact and Cartwright’s attempt at a one-handed catch failed.

On the ensuing possession Alpha Diallo committed a big no-no, fouling Howard on a drive, as his three point play tied the game with 27 seconds left.

Then the Friars turned it over with four seconds left in regulation on a botched handoff.

Cooley accepted no silver linings afterwards. Not the strong second-half play of Kalif Young, or how his team led for 13 minutes in the first half, despite Diallo going to the bench with three fouls.

Providence played well enough for 39 minutes, very well actually, but didn’t execute at the most critical moment. As Cooley said after, oftentimes good isn’t good enough in the Big East.

These aren’t Buzz’s Golden Eagles. Friar fans used to dread playing Marquette when Buzz Williams was their coach. His teams always seemed too physical and often broke the spirit of the Friars.

That’s why it was so gratifying when the Friars hit back in the season finale of 2014 — a double overtime classic that kept the Friars’ NCAA Tournament hopes alive (this one is well worth a second look on a snowy day — Josh Fortune’s four point play, Bryce Cotton’s late steal, and the 75 footer that nearly counted come to mind).

Steve Wojciechowski has done a fine job in his time at Marquette, but the physical intimidation is a thing of the past. Providence was able to play at their pace in the first half and withstand Howard’s explosion by being the bullies on the interior. Marquette didn’t score a point in transition in the opening 20 minutes and made just two 3-pointers.

PC shot 41 free throws (fouling out three Eagles in the process) and went 26-43 (60%) inside the three point arc. Cooley’s teams have been at their best in conference play against the teams they have a physical advantage over.

They were simply tougher around the rim in the 2014 Big East Championship against Creighton (who can forget Bill Raftery saying the Friars just wanted it more?), and we saw it last year when they tried to play up and down with St. John’s in the first meeting (a home loss) before changing course and hitting them with body blows inside in an easy win at Madison Square Garden.

Cartwright (29 points) took 15 free throws, Isaiah Jackson scored 19 points (all at the line or inside the arc), Diallo carved them up inside (6-9 from the field), while Nate Watson went 4-6 from the field and Young finished 4-4.

White Opportunity: Maliek White’s leg injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for him or the Friars. White has been out since going down on Dec. 6 against Brown, a game in which he sparked a lifeless PC bunch with 10 points, five rebounds, and four steals.

White’s minutes were somewhat sporadic early in the season, ranging anywhere from nine minutes to 20 as Cooley toyed with his rotation.

On the surface, it may seem like an overstatement to put much stock in the loss of a player averaging six points in 16 minutes off of the bench.

An argument can be made that White is precisely what this group needs to provide an offensive punch. He was shooting over 50% from the field and nearly 48% from deep prior to his injury and looked to be the best outside shooter on this team outside of Lindsey. And unlike Lindsey, when bunched, he can put the ball on the deck and get to the rim.

Providence shot just 2-12 from 3 on Wednesday night, following up a 3-23 performance the previous time out against Creighton. With Providence’s backup guard options seeking their confidence, White would provide a needed lift off of the bench.

There’s no update on when White will be back, but he was in uniform last night.

Isaiah Jackson’s Wild Ride. Jackson had perhaps his best game as a Friar last night, scoring 17 points with seven rebounds and two steals. He made 9-10 at the free throw line, 5-10 inside the arc, but missed all four of his 3-point attempts — including a couple of great looks late.

There hasn’t been a more confounding Friar in 2017-18 than Jackson. He scored 21 points in the team’s first two games, and then seemed to fall out of the rotation in late November (13 minutes combined against BC, Rider and URI).

He had a scoring stretch of 13-10-17 as the Friars battled through injuries in mid-December. He then scored three points in 23 minutes combined versus St. John’s and Creighton before the big night on Wednesday.

With a physical Xavier team coming to town on Saturday, Providence could use an effective Jackson. Effective is just what he was against Xavier last season, scoring 17 points when the rest of his team struggled in Cincinnati, and 10 when the two teams next met in Providence.

One Comment

  1. Derec Lamendola

    January 4, 2018 at 6:50 pm

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