Marquette rolls, boosts NCAA hopes
The Golden Eagles came up with one of their best games of the season to show people there may not be a whole lot to think about it.
Darius Johnson-Odom scored 23 points and Jimmy Butler added 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to lead Marquette to an 87-66 victory over Providence on Tuesday night in the opening round of the Big East tournament.
“I think we need to continue to win,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “I didn’t see anybody from the Selection Committee in attendance tonight. The win helps. Obviously it doesn’t hurt. Does it ensure we’re in the NCAA tournament? I don’t know. I know we played as well as we have played in a while.”
The 11th-seeded Golden Eagles (19-13), considered by many to be the last of the 11 teams from the Big East with a chance at making the NCAA tournament’s field of 68, will play seventh-seeded and 20th-ranked West Virginia (20-10) in the second round tonight.
“West Virginia is a good team and a great offensive rebounding team,” Butler said. “We have to rest up and get ready to compete. The tougher team is going to win. We have to go out there and make it a dog fight.”
Vincent Council had 21 points and seven assists for the Friars (15-17) and Marshon Brooks, whose 24.8 average led the conference in scoring and is second in the nation, finished with 20 points. They both were 7 of 19 from the field but Council was 6 of 9 on threes and Brooks was 3 of 7.
Marquette scored the first 17 points of the game, making six of its first eight shots from the field including all five three-point attempts.
Providence missed its first
11 shots from the field and it wasn’t close misses. Brooks finally scored on a drive 5:31 into the game to make it 17-2.
Two free throws by Devonte Gardner gave Marquette its biggest lead of the half, 41-17 with 3:28 to go.
The only thing that made the halftime score close to respectable was Council’s 9-1 run over the final 1:25, all the points coming on threes, that made it 46-33.
Providence opened the second half on a 10-4 run to get within 50-43 with 16:55 to play.
Butler and Johnson-Odom scored around a missed jumper by Brooks, and the Golden Eagles staved off any thoughts of a record Big East tournament comeback.
“We played with a lot of passion,” Williams said. “Those last threes in the first half and the run into the second half, our guys could have faltered but their character is outstanding.”
Providence never fully recovered from its poor start.
“Stunned would be a fitting word to describe the start,” Providence coach Keno Davis said. “I think a lot of our guys being the first time in Madison Square Garden needed to experience a little success to feel more comfortable. Marquette did a great job of being physical.”
Marquette shot 57.1 percent from the field (16 of 28), including 5 of 9 on 3s. The Friars shot 30.6 percent (11 of 36) and that included going 7 of 17 on 3s led by Council’s 4 of 7.
One person who feels there is no question about Marquette being in the field of 68 is Brooks.
“I would tell them to look at Marquette. They’re a tough team and keep coming at you because they are so deep,” Brooks said. “They are in you for the whole 40 minutes with fresh players coming in the game. I think Marquette definitely deserves a bid.”