Big East basketball returns to Providence for the first time this season as the Friars host No. 24 Marquette on Tuesday night.
The two teams carry identical 9-3 records into the game after winning their respective conference openers last weekend.
Marquette slid into Monday’s AP Top 25 poll following a 69-58 win over Creighton in its Friday night Big East opener.
“I thought our guys were better on defense than we were on offense, which has kind of been the other way around for most of the season,” coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought our guys did a terrific job, multiple efforts, getting hands on the basketball. … Hopefully that’s something we can build on.”
Before Monday, the Golden Eagles were last ranked during a three-week stretch in January and February.
Junior forward Oso Ighodaro led Marquette with 16 points and six rebounds against Creighton.
Though Ighodaro is Marquette’s only scholarship player who has been a Golden Eagle for more than one season, the team has played well of late, winning six of seven with a marquee decision against then-No. 6 Baylor during that span.
“(Playing Providence is) going to be a real challenge just like any other team, but we have to continue to understand that when we make our whole greater than the sum of our parts, through relationships and connectivity, it ultimately reflects well on the parts,” Smart said.
The Golden Eagles have also defeated North Carolina Central and Notre Dame during their second three-game win streak of the season.
Friday marked Smart’s 300th career win as a head coach.
Providence, meanwhile, will play its first home game in 10 days following Saturday’s 71-67 win at Seton Hall.
“I’ve been on our group about emotional and mental maturity, about togetherness,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “During one of the timeouts, I talked to one of our staff members and said, ‘Wow, there’s only one guy out there from last year.’ That’s been resonating. I thought we grew up (Saturday).”
Cooley’s team will look to go to 2-0 against league foes and aim for its fifth straight win after a dominant second half — scoring 44 points on 50 percent shooting from the field — against Seton Hall.
Sophomore forward Bryce Hopkins logged a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season, while redshirt senior Ed Croswell scored 21 and added nine rebounds.
“Those two guys, Ed’s been around and Bryce continues to emerge, grow and develop in front of our eyes like we said he would,” Cooley said.
The Friars went 14-3 to win their first-ever Big East regular-season title before advancing to the Sweet 16 last season, but Marquette handed them their first conference loss 88-56 on Jan. 4 in Milwaukee.
Providence came back to split the season series with a 65-63 home win on Jan. 30. Rhode Island native Tyler Kolek had 13 points and six rebounds in his return to his home state with Marquette.
Kolek has dished out at least six assists in all but one game this season. He posted seven on Friday.
–Field Level Media