GAME NOTES: The Providence Friars seek out a resume'-building victory on Tuesday night, as they host the Marquette Golden Eagles in a Big East Conference tussle at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
Providence, which is playing its home final this evening, has made a strong case to end its NCAA Tournament drought this season by posting a 19-10 overall mark. However, the Friars, who are tied for fourth place in the Big East with Marquette, (9-7) still have some work to do if they hope to ensure hearing their name called on Selection Sunday. They will have a major hurdle in the season finale at Creighton.
Marquette's NCAA Tournament hopes are holding on by the thinnest of threads. The Golden Eagles are 17-12 overall following a 73-56 loss at first-place Villanova on Sunday. They would likely need to win this contest as well as the season finale against St. John's, and make a deep run in the Big East Tournament to push themselves into the field of 68.
There may be some hope for Marquette in this game, at least if history has anything to do with it. The Golden Eagles have won 13 of the previous 17 meetings with Providence, including a 61-50 triumph at home earlier this season.
Against Villanova, Marquette looked uncomfortable on offense. The Golden Eagles had only 18 field goals on 40 percent shooting, while turning the ball over 15 times. Leading scorer Davante Gardner was limited to eight points in the blowout loss.
Gardner (14.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is one of the best sixth men in the country, as he leads Marquette in scoring, despite coming off the bench in 22 of 29 games this season, and playing 26.1 minutes per game. Todd Mayo (10.1 ppg) is also a strong reserve, with Jamil Wilson (11.8 ppg) the best offensive threat in the starting lineup. Mayo finished with 11 points against Villanova, while Deonte Burton, also playing off the bench, had a team-high 13 points. Normally Marquette is the team that hammers teams on defense, limiting foes to 67.6 ppg on 41.8 percent shooting, but it was on the other side against the Wildcats.
Bryce Cotton went off for 24 points and Kadeem Batts logged 14 points and 11 rebounds to allow Providence to escape with a 74-69 victory over Seton Hall last Friday. The Friars shot a solid 48.1 percent from the floor, although they were just 3-of-14 from 3-point range.
Cotton (21.6 ppg, 5.8 apg) headlines a strong core for the Friars, who also get big contributions from LaDontate Henton (13.2 ppg, 7 rpg), Batts (12.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Tyler Harris (12 ppg). Cotton is second in the Big East in scoring, behind Creighton's Doug McDermott. He has scored at least 20 points in nine of the last 10 games while knocking down at least 50 percent of his shots in four of the last five. Henton finished with 13 points and Harris added 11 against Seton Hall, but as always the Friars did not get much from outside the starting lineup, with Carson Desrosiers scoring all four points off the bench.
In a game likely to be a struggle between two hard-nosed teams, Marquette's depth may prove to be the difference. However, the Friars have the more explosive offense, thanks to Cotton, and are playing at a venue that has always treated them well.
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