Phil Booth was delivering in big ways down the stretch on Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee.
The fifth-year senior has never met a big stage he didn’t like, nor has he met one that he’s been unwilling to perform at a high level on. He’d just made it a one-point game with a floater that dropped into the net at Fiserv Forum, and it looked like the Villanova Wildcats had supplanted enough pressure on the Marquette Golden Eagles to really put them on their heels.
That pressure was exacerbated when Saddiq Bey forced a turnover on Big East Player of the Year frontrunner Markus Howard. With less than 15 seconds remaining, ‘Nova would get one more opportunity to try and get the victory. They had seen this setting before in Marquette’s previous home of the Bradley Center. On that day, Jalen Brunson missed what would’ve been a game-tying layup, and instead led to a Marquette win over the then-No. 1 team in the land.
Booth got his hands on the ball but walked right into a defensive jam. He couldn’t quite get himself out of it, although he certainly tried. The ball eventually landed in the hands of Jermaine Samuels, but Samuels’ desperate attempt at tossing in the game-winning bucket fell short. And in turn, Marquette was celebrating again on their home floor after a 66-65 victory.
The aforementioned Howard shined brightest once again. He scored a game-high 38 points, only needing 24 shots from the field and 13 made buckets to get there, along with seven free throws. His 38-point showing marked the seventh time he’s hit at least 30 points this season. Somehow, 38 points is the 3rd-highest point total for him this season. Such is life though when you’ve put up 45 (twice) and 53. Markus also contributed six rebounds and two assists to his line on another sensational day at the office.
MU was otherwise held in check. Sacar Anim scored 18 points, but no other player who saw the floor scored more than four points. Sam Hauser put up four, as did Brendan Bailey, while Theo John scored merely two.
Villanova’s two-man game of Booth and Eric Paschall nearly got them the victory. Booth scored a team-high 19 points while Paschall chipped in 17 of his own. Bey had 10 points, giving ‘Nova three double figure scorers, as Samuels was just one point shy of that mark with nine. Collin Gillespie had just five points on a 2-for-9 mark from the field, Joe Cremo scored only three and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree racked up just two.
Marquette hit the 20-win mark faster than they have in any season in exactly 10 years. The 2008-09 season was the quickest in recent memory, as they were 20-2 by February 3. With that achievement in the rearview, the Golden Eagles will venture to Chicago on Tuesday night to face the DePaul Blue Demons. Villanova, meanwhile, will welcome the Providence Friars to the Finn on Wednesday night.