Marquette rolls past Providence
Acker scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half to lead Marquette past Providence, 93-63, on Sunday.
“It wouldn’t have been the best idea (to quit),” said Acker, who left the Golden Eagles program last summer but changed his mind and returned for his senior season. “I still had love for the game, and I just wanted to finish out strong my last year.”
Acker’s return has worked out well for Marquette, but Sunday it took a physical toll on him. The 5-foot-7 point guard chipped his left front tooth when, while diving for a ball, he hit his face on the court after a Providence player landed on top of him.
“Basically I’m just trying to play every game like it’s my last game,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
Darius Johnson-Odom had 20 of his 22 points in the first half, Lazar Hayward added 22 and Marquette hit 13 three-pointers.
Marquette (11-6, 2-3 Big East) shot 61 percent from the field and jumped all over one of the conference’s highest-powered offenses despite not playing since Jan. 9.
Frustration appeared to boil over early for Providence (11-7, 3-3), which came in averaging nearly 83 points a game but lost its leading scorer and rebounder just before halftime when Jamine Peterson was ejected.
With 2:28 left in the first half, officials ruled after a lengthy review that Peterson, averaging 17.6 points and 10.6 rebounds, elbowed Marquette’s Joseph Fulce on purpose.
Fulce had a large welt on his lower lip after the incident.
“He got frustrated and something happened on the other end where he retaliated and got tossed,” Providence coach Keno Davis said. “I didn’t disagree with it. I think it’s great they get to see the monitors and make sure they make the right call.”
Peterson didn’t want to talk about the incident after the game.
Marquette was already well ahead before Peterson’s ejection thanks to Johnson-Odom.
The burly guard who transferred into the program this season from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas scored eight straight at one point, and when he hit his fourth 3-pointer to give Marquette a 37-19 lead, Davis yelled in disbelief that his defense failed to account for the Golden Eagles’ hottest shooter.
When the second half started, it was more of the same, this time with Acker leading the way.
Marquette went on an early 12-0 run capped by Acker’s 3-pointer that made it 57-31.
The Golden Eagles, whose three conference losses have all been to ranked opponents by a total of five points, play their next two games at DePaul and at No. 5 Syracuse.
Providence, led by Vincent Council’s 24 points, came in as one of the Big East’s best rebounding teams, averaging more than 43 rebounds, including 17 offensive, but did little against the smaller Golden Eagles.
Marquette outrebounded Providence 33-22.
“The Big East gets physical, so we just have to keep our heads (up),” Council said. “Every night we have to battle and rough it up.”
This game didn’t have quite the theatrics that accompanied the teams’ meeting at Providence exactly a year ago. Then-Friars guard Jeff Xavier was inadvertently elbowed in that game by Fulce, and moments later Xavier’s brother came onto the court to berate officials, which led to his eventual arrest.
But this game was just as physical. Fulce ended up bloodied from Peterson’s elbow, and Acker has a dental appointment to fix his tooth.
“My face was facing the ground ... the big dude from Providence, he came down, landed on my head and chipped my tooth,” Acker said.
Still, he’ll take it.
“Any game you win in the Big East by 30 is huge,” Acker said.