Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center played host to the number one team in the country Saturday night. The Villanova Wildcats, who were dealt their first loss of the season earlier in the week, took on the visiting Marquette Golden Eagles. MU had their fair share of struggles in their last go-around on the east coast, tripping up and allowing Seton Hall to climb into the lead late. Those aforementioned struggles persisted, but in a different maneuver this time.
‘Nova handled control of the game almost from bell to bell on Saturday night, eventually winning by the score of 91-66 The victory props the ‘Cats up to 15-1 on the year and on the flip side sends Marquette reeling to 10-5 with a 1-2 record in Big East play.
The Wildcats’ effort was fueled by a prodigious night from the field. They shot 32-for-49 from the field and 14-for-25 from the 3-point line. The starting five (Hart, Brunson, Bridges, Jenkins and Reynolds) shot 27-for-38 from the field and a rather ridiculous 14-for-21 from outside. Kris Jenkins was especially nice from deep, going 6-for-9 on his long range attempts.
Mikal Bridges meanwhile sunk all three of his attempts while Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart shot a combined 5-for-9 from the 3-point line.
Villanova’s victory keeps up an impressive streak going. Back in March 2013, Villanova suffered back-to-back defeats to the eventual Big East Tournament and National Champion Louisville Cardinals in the aforementioned event at MSG and then were eliminated by the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 64. Since then, ‘Nova has yet to suffer back-to-back defeats. In games following a loss, all 11 to be precise, Jay Wright’s bunch have won them all and did so with an average margin of victory of 17.9 points.
This stretch includes five 20-plus point victories and two by 30 points.
Suffice it to say: Wright knows how to keep his players focused on the next task at hand.
For Marquette, this was one of the worser performances of their season. As of writing, MU ranked 13th in eFG%, 28th in Adj. Offensive Efficiency, 11th in 3PT FG%, 38th in 2PT FG% and 3rd in FT%. The Golden Eagles did not fare well on the Wells Fargo Center floor. As a team, the starters shot 19-for-46 and 26-for-63 with the bench included. Their eFG% was just 52.4 percent, falling shot of their average by 4.3 percent. The team shot 14-for-32 from the 3-point line, which could be considered a success given their season average is 40.3. It was inside where the troubles took place as they shot 5-for-14 on inside attempts.
Freshman Markus Howard led the charge with 21 points, two shy of the career high he set vs. Georgetown in the Big East opener. Howard was indisputably Marquette’s best player on the night, shooting 7-for-11, 4-for-6 from the 3-point line and 3-for-3 from the free throw line. Sam Hauser was close behind as the fellow freshman scored 13 and did so while shooting 5-for-11 from the field and 3-for-7 from the 3-point line.
What we learned
Villanova still has a dangerous offense
After their worst offensive performance of the season, a game in which the Wildcats scored just 58 points, Villanova may have bounced back with their best of the season. They scored a season-high 93 points, shot 65.3 percent from the field, 60.9 percent from the 3-point line and looked outright dynamic at times. This served as a reminder that loss be damned, Villanova is still one of the best teams in the country and a team that the Big East will have to continue to try their hardest to dethrone by year’s end.
Marquette’s offensive sluggishness cost them the game
With defense being an inadequacy for the Golden Eagles, they are heavily reliant on their offense getting it going. Although the numbers will look nice for them when we look past this - 81 points, a high 3-point percentage, etc. - they were ultimately done in by a poor start out of the gate. At times, MU just could not hit go round for round with ‘Nova. Outside of their late surge towards the end of the game, this was easily one of the lesser performances of the year for the Golden Eagles. It’s one they’ll have to put behind them quickly as Seton hall will be coming to town next Wednesday.
Kris Jenkins announced his presence
Jenkins hadn’t necessarily gone unnoticed this season, but going into Saturday he hadn’t had many nights that really jumped off the page. His best performance to date was likely his 22-point outburst against Penn where the senior forward shot 7-for-11 from the field. Well, Saturday was certainly one of those nights for him. After shooting 20-for-45 in Big East play, the 2016 title game hero shot 7-for-11 from the field. Jenkins’ six 3-pointers led their barrage from the outside with no player converting on more than three. On a team loaded with weapons in their arsenal, Kris Jenkins popped his head up and made his presence felt again.