Road beckons Marquette with familiar foe

Originally published in the Marquette Tribune on Jan. 19

The No. 21/22 Marquette Golden Eagles held serve at home last week and now will attempt to match their winning ways on the road when they travel to Providence to battle the Friars on Saturday.

After a six-game stretch in 16 days, coach Buzz Williams’ group took a much-needed day off Tuesday before beginning preparation for the Friars (12-7, 1-5 Big East). Despite slow starts in each of their last three home games, the Golden Eagles (15-4, 4-2 Big East) mounted comebacks in each and moved into a tie for third place in the young conference season.

“Four-and-two is pretty good in the Big East but obviously a lot of us want better than that,” freshman point guard Derrick Wilson said. “We have to keep getting in the weight room with (head strength and conditioning coach) Todd (Smith), on the court with Buzz and keep buying into what he’s teaching us and bring energy every day.”

Away from the Bradley Center, however, Marquette has struggled.

Since their win at Wisconsin on Dec. 3, the Golden Eagles have dropped their last three true road contests, including losses to a pair of top-10 teams in Georgetown and Syracuse.

Marquette’s true road record has worsened each year under Williams, from 6-4 in 2008 to 5-5 in 2009 to 4-7 in 2010. This year Marquette is 1-3 in true road contests.

The Golden Eagles understand the value of winning on the road but know teams are prepared to give them their best effort in their own buildings.

“(Opponents) know we’re a tough team to play so I think they’re ready to go,” Wilson said. “The crowds are pretty rowdy when we go to other places which the teams feed off.”

The Friars have been a common opponent for the Golden Eagles in recent years. In each of the past two seasons the teams have met twice, most recently in the second round of last year’s Big East Championship tournament.

Marquette has won all four of those games by an average score of 87-68 and has won its last seven contests against the Friars. Still, the Golden Eagles won’t overlook anyone on the road.

“I think coach (Ed) Cooley has done an incredible job,” Williams said of the Friars’ first-year coach. “I think they fight, I think they scrap, I think they change up all the time to keep you out of whack.”

The Friars are expected to have junior guard Vincent Council back after the point guard sat out against No. 1/1 Syracuse for undisclosed reasons on Saturday. Council leads the Friars in points (16.4) and assists (6.7) and averages 16.3 points and 5.5 assists in four career games against Marquette.

Wilson, who has provided valuable minutes on the defensive end, said stopping a player like Council is vital to slowing Providence’s offensive rhythm.

“If you play him hard enough and pressure him constantly, that shakes up their offense and wears him down,” Wilson said. “Any team falls apart when their point guard isn’t playing as well.”

Freshman forward LaDontae Henton has been a bright spot inside for the Friars, averaging a team-high 8.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while playing 36.5 minutes per game.

Freshman shooting guard Todd Mayo said the team is well-rested and ready to get back on track on the road.

“I’m sure we’ll lock in and do what we do best,” Mayo said. “We’re not worried about what they do or how they play. We’re just going to do what we do and do us.”


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