Shared from the 1/8/2020 The Providence Journal eEdition

Rising to the challenge

PC edges Marquette in OT, 81-80

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The Friars’ Maliek White, who led the team with 19 points, shoots around Golden Eagles center Jayce Johnson during the second half on Tuesday night in Milwaukee. [USA TODAY SPORTS / JEFF HANISCH]

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MILWAUKEE — Now that was a productive trip to the Midwest.

Something has gotten into the Providence Friars over the last few weeks and there's nothing like two one-point Big East road victories to drive that point home. The resurgent Friars built on their win at DePaul by somehow surviving in regulation and then scratching out an 81-80 overtime win over Marquette on Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum.

The Friars (10-6) are now a perfect 3-0 in the Big East with No. 6 Butler due into the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday night.

After making all sorts of mistakes in a surprising 6-6 start to the season, the Friars now look to be a different team. Tough, gritty defense is the calling card but now enough players are contributing offensively to offer a different spin on the season.

“We’re a lot more dialed in,” said center Kalif Young. “There’s a sense of urgency — understanding where we’re at. We know we have to step up and make a better effort and right now anybody can step up. Everyone has a chance to show up and play big for us.”

Marquette’s Markus Howard went off for 39 points but the Friars’ balanced attack won out. White led the Friars with 19 points, Nate Watson had 13, David Duke and Alpha Diallo 12 and A.J. Reeves added 10.

After carrying play for the entire first half, the Friars led at the break, 32-27. Marquette then opened the second half on a 16-3 run and led by as many as eight points. But instead of folding, the Friars bounced back and barely survived a 21-point half by Howard.

“High, high level Big East game,” PC coach Ed Cooley said. “I was proud of the way we responded in the second half. They punched us in the mouth and went up, but we fought back and it went back and forth from there.”

Tied with three minutes left in regulation after a 3-pointer by Sacar Anim, Marquette grabbed the lead on a driving layup by Anim. PC’s White made one of two free throws to make it 65-64, but the Friars had two costly turnovers by Diallo, the second coming out of a timeout with 34 seconds left.

Brendan Bailey made two free throws with 18 seconds left to stretch the lead to 67-64, but the Friars calmly worked the ball and found Reeves, who nailed a clutch 3-pointer with four seconds left. Marquette’s final shot of regulation missed and the game moved to overtime.

Reeves said Cooley told him he’d be in position to make a big shot and was thrilled to deliver.

“That was definitely a set call,” Cooley said. “I felt it, we’ve practiced that. A.J. has made some big shots for us in his young career. He hasn’t shot the ball the way he wants to, but at the same time I have a lot of faith and belief in him.”

In the extra session, the Friars lost both Watson and Duke to fouls. Duke had spent much of his playing time chasing Howard. His final 3-pointer of the game tied things at 73-73. Reeves stroked another 3-pointer to give PC a 78-75 lead, but Bailey quickly matched it with one of his own with 58 seconds left. PC’s Young tipped in a miss with 34 seconds on the clock and then the Friars forced a jump ball and regained possession.

Luwane Pipkins went to the line with 12 seconds left and made one of two tries. Then, for the second game in a row, PC’s Young fouled a 3-point shooter in the final seconds. This time Marquette’s Bailey drew a foul with 4.1 on the clock. He made his first two shots but missed the third. PC’s White grabbed the rebound and was fouled with just 1.7 on the clock.

“At the end I thought our guys showed some fortitude, we showed some resilience and we showed a lot of progress with respect to keeping our composure,” Cooley said.

Marquette was coming off a win over Villanova but it’s clear that this Big East race has an awful lot of twists and turns ahead. Surprisingly, Providence intends on being part of the fun.

“There’s no question we struggled early (in the season),” Cooley said, “but it’s a learning thing for our men. Our guys have stayed consistent in our practices and in buying into what we teach. Anytime you get a win, that fuels a more positive vibe." kmcnamar@ providencejournal.com

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