No. 19 Marquette set for battle at Providence

NCAA Men's Basketball
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Regaining its winning touch will not come easy for No. 19 Marquette — not with a road game against resurgent Big East rival Providence on tap Saturday.

The Golden Eagles (17-8, 7-6) will be well rested, having played just once in 10 days entering Saturday, but that lone contest was a 73-65 home loss to No. 15 Creighton on Tuesday.

It was the second consecutive defeat for Marquette, which also lost 72-71 to then-No. 15 Villanova on Feb. 12.

The Golden Eagles do not have to face a ranked team this time around, but Providence is starting to play like one. The Friars (15-12, 8-6) are not only ahead of Marquette by a half game in the Big East standings, they are the only team in the top six of the conference that isn’t ranked.

Providence is coming off consecutive victories, getting the best of Georgetown 73-63 on the road Wednesday after an inspired 74-71 victory Saturday over Seton Hall, ranked No. 10 at the time.

Marquette’s Markus Howard was held to 13 points in the defeat to Creighton while shooting 4 of 14 from the field. Howard no longer leads the nation in scoring, but still delivers a healthy 26.7 points per game.

“We had some wide-open shots that we didn’t make,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski told reporters after the Creighton game. “Teams are obviously making it harder on Markus to get any easy shots. We’re going to need some other guys to step up.”

One thing Howard has going for him is that Providence is where he scored a then-Big East record 52 points in a 2018 game. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t hurt the Golden Eagles to get more scoring, especially from the likes of Sacar Anim (13.3 points per game) and Koby McEwen (10.6). Anim had a team-high 18 against Creighton.

Providence leading scorer Alpha Diallo, in the midst of an up-and-down senior season, appears to have his confidence back following some recent struggles that included a scoreless game on Jan. 25 against Villanova.

Diallo has combined for 53 points in the Friars’ back-to-back wins and is averaging 20 points per game over his last five contests following a one-game demotion out of the starting lineup on Feb. 5.

In the victory over Georgetown on Wednesday, Diallo had 18 points while Luwane Pipkins added 16 as the Friars bounced back after opening the game 0 of 7 from the field. Providence’s defense was the difference as it held the Hoyas without a field goal for more than a 13-minute stretch in the second half.

“I’ve been telling the guys the game is a long game so just continue to stay dialed in and trust one another,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “Then keep defending. Our offense will come but if we defend we’re going to give ourselves a chance.”

It will be the second meeting this season between Marquette and Providence after the teams played an overtime thriller at Milwaukee on Jan. 7. Providence won that one 81-80 but then proceeded to lose four of its next five, with all of the defeats to ranked teams. Marquette lost despite 39 points from Howard, including 27 after halftime.

–Field Level Media

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