Kam Jones' 21 points and clutch plays lead Marquette to win over Providence at Fiserv Forum

Kam Jones has become Mr. Clutch for the Marquette men’s basketball team.

The sophomore guard has embraced that role and he scored 21 points while coming through with several crucial plays to help the 20th-ranked Golden Eagles hold off No. 22 Providence, 83-75, on Wednesday at Fiserv Forum.

MU (15-5, 7-2 Big East) turned to Jones when the game turned into a slog in the second half, and the Friars (14-5, 6-2) wouldn’t go away.

BOX SCORE: Marquette 83, Providence 75

More:Marquette honors 2003 Final Four team with Dwyane Wade, Travis Diener, Steve Novak and Tom Crean at Fiserv Forum

More:Marquette basketball's efficient offense is fun to watch and seizing a lot of attention. The players are 'just hoopin' as Kam Jones likes to say.

“Growing up, kind of been in those moments a lot,” Jones said. “So, you know, it’s fun to play in those moments.

“Especially in an environment like Fiserv was tonight. Just being ready for my team. Make sure I’m ready for any moment.”

Kam Jones scores 18 of his 21 points in second half

The Golden Eagles’ largest lead came at 49-35 when Olivier-Maxence Prosper threw down a dunk that ignited the crowd of 14,544 fans.

But Providence steadily whittled down that advantage to 70-65 when Ed Croswell, who finished with 20 points, powered his way to a layup with 3:30 left.

Jones then made a daring defensive play, darting in for a steal against Providence’s Devin Carter and then racing down the court for a layup.

“I’m thinking when he was driving he wasn’t looking to pass really,” Jones said. “So I just helped off a lot.

“It was a big gamble. I just happened to poke it and go lay it up.”

Jones even made the wise decision not to push the highlight too far.

“I was thinking about dunking it but my legs was dead,” Jones said. “I was taking it up the court and I was thinking about it.”

Providence answered back with a layup from Corey Floyd Jr., but Jones and Oso Ighodaro worked the two-man game to free up Jones for a three-pointer that gave the Golden Eagles a 75-67 lead with just over two minutes left.

Jones added to his highlight reel of clutch plays this season, including a tying three-pointer in overtime against Wisconsin and the knockout blows at Notre Dame.

He scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half.

“He’s just more assertive,” MU head coach Shaka Smart said. “At one point, he even motioned to me. He wanted to run a specific out-of-bounds play that gets him a shot.

“He never really does that. It’s good to start to see him assert himself more and more. He holds himself to a really high standard and he wants to help his team. He’s really connected to his teammates. And sometimes he gets down.

“But, man, the guy scores in bunches like very few guys that I’ve coached. And what we have to do as a team and as a coaching staff, is find a way to help him score like that consistently through the game. Because if we do he’d be the leading scorer in the country.”

Marquette in second place in Big East standings after splitting with Providence

The Golden Eagles avenged a double-overtime loss to the Friars on Dec. 20 in Providence, Rhode Island.

The victory also elevated MU into second place in the Big East behind Xavier, which lost at DePaul on Wednesday night and saw the Musketeers' lead over the Golden Eagles shrink to a half-game.

Both games against Providence were physical, with the Friars earning 30 more free-throw attempts in the first matchup.

“Going into the mindset of not expecting a call,” Jones said. “They fouled a lot, honestly. A lot of them don’t get called.

“So you just got to keep playing. Keep playing through it. Take the bumps. Just keep playing hard.”

This time, the game was slowed down by whistles in the second half, but MU salted the game away at the free-throw line. The Golden Eagles finished 17 for 20 at the charity stripe.

“I thought we embraced the physicality down the stretch better in this game than we did up there,” Smart said. “I thought up there we got a little tired, and I thought they were certainly the aggressors in the last six, seven minutes of regulation and the second overtime.

“But I thought our guys embraced it better down the stretch. The one guy that really had a tough situation was Oso (Ighodaro) because he was in foul trouble, but there was multiple fouls going on both ways on every possession.”

Golden Eagles get pep talk from Dwyane Wade as 2003 Final Four team honored

MU honored the 2002-03 team that advanced to the Final Four, with head coach Tom Crean, players and managers basking in ovations at halftime.

But before the game, Wade was in the MU locker room giving a speech to the current players.

“He was just talking about how Marquette basketball embodies playing together,” Jones said. “Relationships. Doing everything for each other.

“I think we’re carrying that culture pretty well.”

Wade has become invested in this year’s upstart Golden Eagles, who are competing for a conference title after being picked by the Big East coaches to finish ninth in the league.

“He’s got a lot of pride in this place,” Smart said. “He’s got a lot of pride in what he did, he and his teammates and his coaches did at Marquette.

“And he’s texted me a few times throughout this season and he watches closely what our guys do. And so I can’t think of a whole lot of guys that played college basketball that are bigger figures demonstrating such an interest in their school’s current team. It means a lot to our team.”

More:The Markus Howard connection at Marquette continues through Oso Ighodaro

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Marquette beats Providence 83-75 in Big East game at Fiserv Forum