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Villanova defeats Marquette, stays in Big East race

The Wildcats will not go down without a fight.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Villanova Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Villanova Wildcats won’t be denied quite yet.

Despite a firm challenge from the Marquette Golden Eagles Wednesday night, the Wildcats still managed to prevail. Playing host to Markus Howard and friends, Villanova won 67-61 and as a result, they’re still in the hunt for at least a share of the Big East regular season championship.

No other way of describing this game may be more apt than calling it “The Jermaine Samuels Game.” Samuels erupted for 29 points in the victory over MU. His 29 points shredded through his previous career high of a mere 15 against the Temple Owls earlier this season, and marked the first time he hit over 20 points in his two years on The Main Line.

He went 10-for-19 from the field and 5-for-13 from 3-point range, which was perhaps the most stirring part of his performance. His five made 3-pointers were also a career best, brushing by the three he dropped against, you guessed it, Temple.

Down the stretch though, it was Phil Booth who showed out. In his final game at The Pavilion, seven points in the final 4:52, including a 3-pointer that brought the Cats to within two and then two free throws that swelled their lead up to four points with 27 seconds to go. Samuels iced the game up with two free throws in the final moments, but without Booth’s efforts in the final segments of this one, the Wildcats may’ve suffered a cruel defeat.

With Ed Morrow, Sacar Anim and Theo John making cameos, it was The Sam Hauser & Markus Howard Show in the second half. Hauser and Howard scored 25 of the Golden Eagles’ 33 points. They also combined to score 38 of their 61 points scored, as Howard dropped 25 points in the loss.

Markus was his usual top-shelf self while Hauser complemented with deft outside range (three made 3-pointers) and rebounding (team-high seven boards). His brother Joey Hauser trailed him with six rebounds and he was third on the team with eight points. That perhaps is one of the big reasons MU failed to pick up the win. They did not get much help from everyone else in this one besides Howard and The Brothers Hauser.

Turnovers certainly doomed MU on the night as well. The Golden Eagles committed 18 of them, good for a TO% of a rough 28.1 percent on their 64 possessions. By comparison, Villanova committed just seven TOs on 62 possessions, good for a TO% of just 11.3 percent. Those kinds of errors will kill you, especially when you consider that ‘Nova scored 22 points off those turnovers.

With their three-game losing streak snapped, Villanova is now going to aim to end the season on a high note. They have matchups with the Butler Bulldogs and Seton Hall Pirates remaining, and with Marquette now skating on thinner ice, they will certainly be hoping that things break their way. MU will be playing the Creighton Bluejays on Sunday, with matchups against Seton Hall and the Georgetown Hoyas looming in the distance.

The Big East race will certainly be fascinating to watch, especially due in part to Villanova’s refusal to quit on Wednesday night.