David Duke rediscovered his scoring groove and the Providence Friars needed every single one of his season-high 31 points in order to fend off Marquette on Wednesday night.
Whether it was hitting off-balanced threes or getting to the free-throw line, Duke clicked and then some as PC prevailed in overtime by a 72-63 count at Alumni Hall. Duke missed the first four shots he took but didn’t misfire too many more times after that. The junior made 10 of his final 18 shots and was equally effective from three (4-of-8) and the charity stripe (7-of-10).
For someone mired in a three-game rut – 11-from-46 over that span – the sight of Duke of putting pressure on the opposing defense instead of vice versa had to make him feel good.
“I’m extremely hard on myself. It was getting to me mentally, but I told myself that you’ve got to take the good with the bad,” said Duke. “Teams are going to key in and make it hard for you, but this whole week, I spent a lot of time in the gym just working on shots that I would be getting and just get comfortable again.”
Duke added six rebounds and six assists. He was the maestro behind the two of the biggest hoops of the game – a three by A.J. Reeves that tied the game at 54-54 and another three that freshman Alyn Breed splashed in while in front of the PC bench. That basket put the Friars up 68-63 with 35.5 seconds remaining in the extra session.
“That’s just trusting my teammates. The last couple of games, I was forcing it a little bit too much and not trusting my guys – kicking it out and taking one less dribble. Coach [Ed Cooley] has been on me about that,” said Duke. “Those guys were open and stayed ready. I have confidence in them and fed them at the right time.”
The game-tying hoop by Reeves was part of a 13-point night where he struggled from the field (2-of-10) but made up for it by going 7-for-7 at the line. Breed came back down to earth after strong games against Creighton and Villanova, finishing with eight points on 2-of-9 from the floor.
It wasn’t all bad news for the first-year Friar. In addition to the timely three in overtime, Breed came up with a key steal with Providence protecting a 64-61 lead.
“I coach him hard which is a big part of his development,” said Cooley. “To accept coaching and criticism … he doesn't think about missed shots or turnovers. He’s just on to the next play.”
The Golden Eagles took a page from Villanova’s playbook as far as limiting PC senior big man Nate Watson. Save for a few hoops late in regulation, Watson was quiet with nine points in 39 minutes.
“Nate tweaked his ankle so he was hobbling a little bit, but at the same time, you have to give credit to Marquette,” said Cooley. “It’s not that we weren’t giving him the ball. He was getting smothered.”
The Friars missed 16 of their first 19 shots but still went into halftime with a 28-15 lead. The defense that limited Marquette 34.8 percent in the opening half was nowhere to be found in the latter half. Led by Koby McEwen (13 points) and Justin Lewis (12 points), Marquette shot 65 percent in the second half and succeeded in erasing a 59-55 deficit with two minutes remaining.
PC’s plan in overtime was obvious – place the ball in Duke’s hands and let him go to work. On the flip side, Marquette managed just four points in the additional five minutes that were needed in order to decide a key Big East game.
"I just try to stay even keel and know that as long as I put our team in a good position to win, that's all that matters," said Duke. "I just let the game come to me more today instead of forcing it."
The Friars improve to 9-7, 5-5 in the Big East. Marquette drops to 4-6 in league play.
RIM RATTLERS: The Friars hit their home floor sans point guard Jared Bynum. The junior missed his six straight game with a groin injury. … A football fan who loves the New England Patriots, Cooley says that nothing surprises him when it comes to the ageless Tom Brady. At age 43, Brady is on his way to his 10th appearance in the Super Bowl – his first as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I’m happy for Tom. I really am,” said Cooley. “A guy that old, that’s like me still coaching at 110 and getting to a Final Four. It’s amazing to see him out there.” … Wednesday’s officiating crew of Jeff Clark, John Gaffney and Evon Burroughs wore masks in a precautionary move after one of the officials who worked Tuesday’s UConn-Butler game tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the Huskies and Bulldogs are on pause. … The tipoff time for Saturday’s Providence-at-Georgetown game has been moved to 1 p.m. and will now be televised on CBS. The game was originally scheduled for a 12 p.m. tip on FS1. The Big East has yet to announce a makeup date for the PC-Georgetown game that was originally on the docket for Jan. 16 but was postponed. … On Tuesday, the Big East announced that Commissioner Val Ackerman has agreed to a contract extension that will keep her under wraps through 2024.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03