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Providence loses to No. 21 Marquette, 79-72

Providence first-year coach Ed Cooley had one word to describe what he's planning to do to overcome what he perceives as his team's lack of toughness.

"Recruit," he said after the Friars were outmatched down the stretch and fell to No. 21 Marquette 79-72 on Saturday night.

Jae Crowder scored 18 points and reserve Jamil Wilson had a career-best 16 to lead Marquette, which held Providence without a field goal for seven minutes when it took control.

"That was as winnable game as we've had in a long time," he said. "I thought we lacked toughness. To start the second half there was a lack of urgency. One time they had a power play. I thought I was at a hockey game. They had five straight loose balls. You can't coach toughness."

The Friars shot just 36.5 percent (22 of 63) in the game and looked lethargic on the offensive end after a strong first half.

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.

Bryce Cotten led the Friars (12-8, 1-6) with 28 points and LaDonte Henton had 14.

"Marquette is a very good basketball team," Cooley said. "Right now I'm just frustrated with our toughness. I think we took a big step back."

It was Marquette's first conference road victory and Golden Eagles' coach Buzz Williams got 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 and followed that with a 3 from the left corner.

After Gerard Coleman had a basket for Providence, Wilson had consecutive baskets 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 made it an 11-point lead with 3:51 remaining.

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, coming 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 into the contest.

It was similar to Marquette's last game on Monday when Louisville pulled 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 next 6:46. Crowder had seven points and Johnson-Odom nailed a pair of 3s, both 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.

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 14 offensive rebounds to overcame the shoddy shooting.