Jae Crowder scored 18 points and reserve Jamil Wilson had a career-best 16 to lead No. 21 Marquette to a 79-72 win Saturday night.
Wilson and Davante Gardner combined for all the points in a 14-3 run that carried the Golden Eagles (16-4, 5-2 Big East) to their fourth straight league win. Darius Johnson-Odom added 16 points and Gardner finished with seven.
“We spend an inordinate amount of time in practice on our defense,” Williams said. “I think in the last 13 minutes we were good defensively—maybe our best all year.”
The Golden Eagles’ tough man-to-man defense combined with some solid shooting turned a close game into an easy win. Marquette shot 68.2 percent (15 of 22) after halftime.
“I don’t know why we start out slow, but in the second half we always pick it up and get the job done,” Gardner said.
Like its last game, Marquette started sluggishly, but responded with a quick turnaround. In the second half, Wilson took over, scoring nine points in a key stretch.
“I think he’s been incredibly important with what we’re doing,” Williams said. “I think with each day in practice his confidence continues to grow.”
Bryce Cotten led the Friars (12-8, 1-6) with 28 points and LaDonte Henton had 14.
“We showed no defensive toughness at all,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “I’m disappointed in our guys because we showed no mental toughness.”
The Friars were held to seven offensive rebounds in the second half after dominating the glass for 14 in the first.
It was Marquette’s first conference road victory, and Williams earned the 99th win of his career.
Wilson gave Marquette a 62-57 edge with 10:45 to play when he hit a jumper from the top of the key and followed that with a 3-pointer from the left corner.
After Gerard Coleman had a basket for Providence, Wilson had consecutive buckets in the lane, pushing the Golden Eagles’ lead to 66-59 with 8:02 left.
Gardner then took over the scoring. He scored in the lane, hit one free throw and a putback that made it an 11-point lead with 3:51 remaining.
“We got a number of stops in a row,” Crowder said. “We knew we would get things done on the offensive end.”
Wilson shot 6 of 9 in the second half after going 1 for 4 in the first.
“I feel real comfortable,” he said. “I think I got a feel for what everyone can do.”
Marquette hit 11 of its first 14 shots to open the second half.
The Friars beat then-No. 14 Louisville by 31 points in their last home game on Jan. 10.
The tempo was much slower at the start of the second half, with both teams tightening up man defenses, forcing each to run half-court offenses.
The Friars led 40-39 at intermission.
In the first half, Providence handled Marquette’s man-to-man defense easily early, getting wide-open jumpers, and pulled to a 14-6 lead 3:46 in.
It was similar to Marquette’s last game on Monday when Louisville jumped to an 18-2 lead before the Golden Eagles roared back en route to a 74-63 victory.
The Golden Eagles called timeout, switched to a trapping half-court defense and halted the Friars’ momentum, going on a 20-3 run over the ensuing 6:46. Crowder had seven points and Johnson-Odom nailed a pair of 3s, both coming from the right wing.
The Friars then called timeout and responded by scoring 14 of the next 18 points before the teams settled down and stayed tight through the remainder of the half.
Vincent Council’s free throw with 1 second left gave Providence its halftime edge.
The Friars shot just 30.6 percent (11 of 36) in the first half, but grabbed offensive rebounds to overcame the shoddy shooting.