Since losing Vander Blue, Marquette has longed for a player who could make a clutch shot in crunch time.

Now that the Golden Eagles (11-9, 3-4) almost cannot afford another loss in the stretch drive for the NCAA Tournament, continuing Thursday night at home against Providence (15-5, 5-2), maybe they've found that guy in Todd Mayo.

In Marquette's last two games against Georgetown and Villanova, Mayo had the assertiveness to make dramatic three-point shots to help send both into overtime. He scored 19 points on Jan. 11 against Seton Hall and 18 Saturday on 7-of-10 shooting against the Wildcats.

Although the junior guard is developing into a go-to scorer at this critical point in the season, Mayo said he has been reluctant to approach coach Buzz Williams for more playing time off the bench.

"But (assistant) coaches like (Jerry) Wainwright and Jeff (Reynolds) always want me to sit down and talk to him about getting in a little bit earlier and getting a rhythm because they feel like I help the team," Mayo said. "But I'm a guy who really doesn't get into all of that. Obviously every player wants to play a lot, but I want to see what he thinks is best for the team.

"I think he's starting to realize it a little bit. At the same time, I like to see the other guys get going and hopefully I can come in and be at the pace they're at."

Williams has stayed with senior Jake Thomas as the starting shooting guard, yet Thomas got off just two shots in 29 minutes against Villanova. Mayo's minutes have increased in Big East play, yet sometimes he has been erratic. In the overtime loss at Butler on Jan. 18, Mayo missed all six of his three-point attempts.

"Todd made two shots at Georgetown, one of them really big, and he played great offensively against Villanova," Williams said. "He's shooting 29% from three in league play. We need him to continue to help us offensively because when he has games like he did at Butler, it puts extra stress on our team.

"He plays with great confidence on offense, and we need him to continue to improve and help us defensively as well."

Mayo is fifth on the team in minutes played at 21.4 a game and is fourth in scoring at 9.7. While neither Mayo nor Thomas has been reliable three-point shooters this season, Thomas has seen more time at the position.

Williams decided to start Thomas at the beginning of the season because Mayo was coming off knee surgery and missed a lot of off-season activity. Mayo completely agreed with the call.

"You can't just pass up on players who have been working all summer when you've been sitting out for two and a half months," he said.

Then there is the matter of Mayo's sketchy history at Marquette. He was sent home to West Virginia by Williams after his freshman year, was academically ineligible the first semester last season and was suspended for the Wisconsin game this year.

Mayo revealed that he was benched in the 70-64 loss in Madison for being late to a practice.

"I just felt like I let a lot of people down," Mayo said. "It was disappointing. I knew the media and the fans would tear me apart. And most important, I knew my team was like, man. I guess it helped me learn to be on time."

Through it all, Mayo has taken it upon himself lately to be responsible for the big shot. His step-back three-pointer against Villanova and top-of-the-key jumper at Georgetown at the end of regulation were as clutch as anything Marquette has managed all season.

"I'll take the shot at the end of the game," Mayo said. "Whether I miss it or make it. I'll take the shot. I'll be fine if I get criticized. I'm good with it whether it's good or bad. I think I can handle it. I think it's going to make me a little bit better."