On the road to defend their title, Marquette opened up Big East Conference play Tuesday in Providence but fell short of a winning start to a physical Providence team.
Marquette entered Amica Mutual Pavilion in Providence on Tuesday to begin conference play as reigning Big East Champions but was left battered and bruised after a tough, physical loss to the Friars on their home court, 72-57. The path through the Big East is never an easy one, and Marquette was reminded why right off the bat by a talented, physical, and well-coached Providence team led by up-and-coming head coach Kim English in his first year with the program.
This marks the fifth straight loss for Marquette in Providence, a road environment that has proven to be difficult to play in, with the Friars being a perfect 9-0 this season and 24-2 dating back to last year. The Pavilion was pulsing from the tip-off as they watched their team set a physical tone early. It was clear that Providence wanted to take Marquette’s standout big-man Oso Ighodaro out of the game, and for the most part, they did.
Providence senior Josh Oduro kept Ighodaro out of the paint, limiting his touches to the outside within the half-court offense. Ighodaro put up only 4 shots through the first 35 minutes of the game as the Marquette guards found themselves driving to the basket to try to create paint touches, with little success against a suffocating defense. Without the normal inside presence of Ighodaro to balance the offense, Marquette rattled away only 7 assists in the entire game.
The success that Providence had on the defensive end of the floor transitioned to fast-break points and open 3-pointers. Not only open 3-pointers, but the Providence shooters were also fouled on three of them, creating opportunities for easy points at the free throw line. Marquette was uncharacteristically pressured into rare mistakes all night, and Providence was there to efficiently clean them up. Junior guard Devin Carter had a career night, going for 22 points on 60% shooting (5-9 3pt), and fan favorite Ticket Gaines added 18 points on 5 threes of his own. Holding a double-digit lead for most of the night, the Friars executed English’s game plan to push Marquette out of their pace and set their own.
Marquette shot just 32% on the night and were held to just 4-20 on their 3-point attempts. Multiple players struggled in a group effort, but Tyler Kolek was still able to find success in his home state, leading the Golden Eagles with 21 points while adding 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Showing frustration at times, Kolek wouldn't be enough to make up for the poor shooting and frazzled state of his offense. The rest of the team would shoot a combined 27% from the field on only 11 made shots. The low volume from Oso Ighodaro not only pushed more shots to the outside but created many unsuccessful driving attempts, where Marquette uncharacteristically missed multiple layups. It just wasn't their night.
Marquette sophomore guard Chase Ross, who is replacing an injured Stevie Mitchell, went down with what looked like a severe ankle injury in the first half. He had to be helped to the locker room but later returned visibly still hampered by the injury. There has yet to be an update on his status or any information regarding if he will miss any time.
Marquette would’ve preferred a stronger outing in the debut of Big East play to defend their title, but Providence was ready and equipped to take them head-on. If this is any indication of things to come, the Big East will again be one of the toughest conferences in the country to play through. Marquette opens up their home Big East schedule on Friday night when they host Georgetown at Fiserv Forum.