The Marquette Golden Eagles bounced back after their blowout loss against the Creighton Bluejays while the Villanova Wildcats suffered their first loss to a non-ranked opponent. Both teams are now 1-1 in conference play where each game seems incredibly crucial.
Markus Howard came out hot to start the game. With 12 points in 7 minutes, Howard led Marquette to an early nine-point lead. Villanova tried six different players defensively on Howard, but he still finished the half with 17 points. Howard was in attack mode, drawing many fouls and putting Saddiq Bey on the bench for much of the first half with foul trouble. Cole Swider would go 4-4 from 3 while the rest of his team would be a cold 2-12. McEwen, who entered the game amid scoring/shooting struggles, would find a groove alongside Howard to score 13 in the first half as he and Howard would outscore Villanova on the way to a 46-29 halftime lead.
Marquette would go cold in the second half, including a seven minute stretch without any points. Villanova could never get going, only able to cut the lead to 8, but never any closer. Marquette would shoot well enough from the line, 13-17 in the second half, to ice the game.
Marquette needed to respond after being embarrassed by Creighton. In the first half, they looked like a team that had been yelled at a lot in the past few days for their miserable performance. The energy and effort were drastically improved.
After a game where Theo John was deemed a liability (by his coach), contributing just 1 rebound and 2 turnovers in only eight minutes against Creighton, he was huge today. John was all over the place on defense, doubling often and constantly rotating to defend the basket. John finished with four of the team’s seven blocks. Marquette’s defense was strong today and John was the enforcer.
Live by the three, die by the three doesn’t get to apply for Villanova today. Even though they did not shoot well, 9-38 (23.7%) from 3, Marquette shot just as poorly at 5-21 (23.8%). The glaring liability for Villanova today was their inability to get to the line. Villanova attempted a total of 5 FTs compared to Marquette’s 30. Villanova shot 50% from 2, and especially after Marquette’s miserable attempts to defend the interior against Creighton, not seeing Villanova attack Marquette’s interior/find a way to get John out of the paint was surprising.
Markus Howard: 29 points, 8 rebounds
Koby McEwen: 22 points, 4 rebounds
Theo John: 6 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks
Greg Elliott: 4 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
Cole Swider 14 points, 5 rebounds
Justin Moore 14 points, 6 rebounds
Connor Gillespie: 6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 3 points, 11 rebounds
Marquette faces Providence at home on Tuesday 1/7. Providence entered conference play with the worst non-conference record at 7-6, but has started 2-0 in conference with wins over Georgetown and DePaul.
Villanova stays on the road heading to Omaha to face Creighton on Tuesday 1/7. Creighton started conference play with a dominant win over Marquette before losing on the road at #11 Butler. Creighton could very easily find themselves ranked coming Monday, highlighting a matchup that could be the most exciting to watch in the Big East.