The Villanova Wildcats and Marquette Golden Eagles came into the day in a three way tie for second in the conference. After losing double-digit leads in the first and second half, Villanova was able to secure a 72-71 victory to move to 8-4 in conference play.
Villanova was hot early. After hitting seven 3s in the first 12 minutes, the Wildcats jumped out to an early 28-13 lead. Marquette would hit four 3s of their own the rest of the way to cut the first half lead down to nine.
Villanova’s defense would lead them to a 9-0 run to start the second half. Angry with his starters effort, Wojo would pull four starters (Marquette only has nine scholarship players) in order to spark some life in his team. The spark would come from Jamal Cain . Cain would score 13 in the second half as Marquette would grind back, cutting the lead to 3 with 42 seconds to go.
Marquette would get the ball back down 3 with 16 seconds and Jay Wright would order his team to foul. At the line with 10 seconds left, Markus Howard would miss the first free throw and miss the rim while trying to miss the second. He would hit a three at the buzzer to move past Syracuse’s Lawrence Moten for sole possession of most points in Big East history, but Villanova would be victorious 72-71.
Villanova’s defense did an incredible job on Howard most of this game. They faltered late, and doing so almost cost them the game, but Villanova showed how dominant they can be on defense and how dominant they can play when they play good defense. During their three game losing streak they gave up 75 PPG and a 50 FG% after only allowing 62.1 PPG on 42.2% shooting during their seven game win streak. Villanova can be a great defensive team and will be incredibly hard to beat when they are.
I have been critical in the past for Wojo not doing anything different when his game plan is clearly not working. In this game, he tried. He mixed in some zones. After his teams lackluster start after the break, which he should definitely take a good amount of blame for, he pulled four starters and ran the bench lineup for significant minutes in the second half. Wojo being willing to make in-game adjustments will be huge for Marquette.
On Sunday, Villanova faces their second non-conference opponent while in conference play. They face off against the Big 5 rival Temple Owls (13-11) before traveling to Chicago to resume conference play against the DePaul Blue Demons.
Marquette has five days off before hosting the Creighton Bluejays on Tuesday. The Golden Eagles will hope for a better outcome than their first matchup where Creighton blew them out 92-75.