After a Saturday in which five of the Top 10 teams in the nation fell to lower-ranked opponents, Villanova refused to fall into the same trap on Sunday.
The No. 8 Wildcats trounced the Marquette Golden Eagles, who were in desperate need of a quality win, 73-56. With the victory, Villanova improves to 26-3 and 14-2 in the BIG EAST, while Marquette falls to 17-12 with a conference record of 9-7.
The game really was over after the early sections of the first half. Marquette had the lead only once the entire contest, and that moment came with 17:50 left in the first half. That lead lasted a whole 20 seconds, as Nova went in front soon after and never trailed the rest of the way.
In the second half, it only got worse for the Golden Eagles, who trailed by double digits for all 20 minutes. This blowout comes a little over a month after a battle in which Nova pulled out a nine point victory in overtime in Milwaukee.
The amazing feat for the Wildcats today was the team's ability to dominate a hot Marquette team that had won five of their last six games without any offense from the season's leading scorer. James Bell (15.7 PPG) was literally non-existent on the offensive side of the ball in this game. Bell finished without a point for the first time since February 3, 2013 against, who else, Marquette in a 60-56 victory. The senior guard struggled with foul trouble for the entire game and ended up fouling out after only attempting three shots.
Much like earlier this season, the game was really decided from beyond the three-point line. Neither squad really separated themselves in the rebounding category in which Marquette won 38-35, from the free-throw line where Marquette made 16 and Nova made 15, or in the turnover battle which was even at 14. Jay Wright's squad really pulled away from the three-point line, shooting 40.0 percent on 30 attempts compared to Marquette who finished the day shooting 27.0 percent on 15 attempts.
This is the same story as last time, when Nova shot 10-28 and Marquette only shot 2-11. In this game, Nova ended up winning by 17 and outscored Marquette from deep by 16 points.
The entire game was one giant dedication to junior forward Darrun Hilliard. Hilliard was absolutely spectacular and finished with a career-high 25 points. The junior guard really made his living from outside, hitting a career high five three-pointers on eight attempts. With this performance, Hilliard reached double figures for the 14th time in his last 16 games.
In this game, two other Wildcats reached the double figures plateau. JayVaughn Pinkston finished the game with 11 points, breaking his season-long streak of two straight games of failing to score at least 10 points. Josh Hart came off the bench and added 13 as well, his first time with double-digit points since January 18.
On the other side, none of the Marquette starters finished with more than five points. The top three scorers for Buzz Williams' team all came off of the bench. Freshman Deonte Burton led the pack with 13 points, followed by Todd Mayo and Davante Gardner who finished with 11 and eight points respectively.
With the Creighton loss yesterday, Jay Wright and Co. are now two games away from clinching the program's first outright BIG EAST regular season title since the 1981-82 season. The next step for the Cats comes on Thursday when they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Xavier Musketeers, who just upset the Bluejays on Saturday. Meanwhile, Marquette will head out to Rhode Island for a bubble battle against the Providence Friars.