Jay Wright will likely tell you his Villanova Wildcat team has a lot to improve on, but tonight's performance shows you exactly while the 'Cats are considered a sexy pick to make a deep run in March's NCAA Tournament.
After jumping out to an 23-7 lead early, Wright's men went ice cold from the field and went into the half trailing a Marquette team looking to make hay in the crowded Big East standings. After a back and forth start to the second half, the Wildcats used a 20-2 run to balloon their lead to 19 and would hold on from there, winning 83-68 over the Golden Eagles to make it 36 in a row at The Pavilion.
Depth was once again the story for 'Nova as they had they four players in double digits as well a fifth player. Mikael Bridges with nine points. Kris Jenkins paced the 'Cats with 20 and senior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono stuffed the stat sheet for the men from main line, finishing with with 14 points, seven boards, and six assists.
Steve Wojciechowski's team was led, as usual, by freshman sensation Henry Ellenson who finished with a tidy 12 points and eight boards while doing an impressive job on the defensive end to slow down 'Nova big man Daniel Ochefu. Ellenson was a solid 5-of-11 from the field but shot just 20 percent from deep, while the Golden Eagles shot just 30 percent from deep as a team.
Both teams return to action Saturday as they continue their run through the Big East. The Wildcats will head to D.C. to take on the Hoyas of Georgetown (11-6) while Marquette will play host to No. 7 Xavier (15-1) on the back half of a brutal back-to-back.
What we learned:
1. Strength in numbers
It's always somebody for Villanova. Jay Wright's teams haven't had a real superstar since the days of Kyle Lowry, but in the years since they've been able to beat you a number of ways. Such was the case tonight as Ochefu was rendered all but useless on the offensive end, scoring just four points in the contest. Whether it's Ochefu, Arcidiacono, Jenkins, Josh Hart or any of the plethora of other guys 'Nova can send at you, they will get their looks and it will wear you down.
2. Marquette needs more from Cheatham
Haanif Cheatham can be dynamic with the ball in his hands. The 6-foot-5 swing man is a plus shooter who can beat you from deep or take you to the rack, but he needs to be more consistent. When the Golden Eagles made their run late in the first half, Cheatham was a key component. Unfortunately for Cheatham and his teammates, the freshman went silent in the second half. He scored just six of his team-leading 17 after the break, four of which came with the game well in hand. For Marquette to be successful, Cheatham needs to be a legitimate scoring threat every time he touches the ball.
3. Jalen Brunson is going to be special
Highly touted freshman point guard Jalen Brunson is going to be the next in long line of great point guards for Jay Wright and you got a glimpse of that ability tonight. Brunson scored 14 points on just six attempts from the field and was a key to the Wildcats ability to control the tempo in the second half. His silky shooting stroke and seemingly effortless ball handling make him a nightmare guard. He and consensus five-star power forward recruit Omari Spellman are going to be a sight to see running pick and roll for Wright's Wildcats next year.