The #17 Marquette Golden Eagles (19-6, 10-3) travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday to take on the Villanova Wildcats (17-10, 8-6). Game time is 6 pm ET, with coverage on either ESPN or ESPN2. It is Senior night at the Pavilion for forwards Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton.
Villanova is coming off a hard fought win against Rutgers 71-63, where the team struggled in the first half and couldn't buy a bucket. As a result, they found themselves down 10 heading into halftime. The second half was a totally different story, as the Wildcats outscored the Knights 50-32.
Marquette, however, is coming off a blow-out road win on Tuesday vs Seton Hall, beating the Pirates by 21, (67-46). The Golden Eagles find themselves in a three-way tie for the top spot in the Big East.
Here are a few things the Wildcats will have to do to knock off the Golden Eagles.
Feed Pinkston Down Low
JayVaughn Pinkston is one of the few players on this Wildcats team that can create his own shot. He has been inserted back into the starting lineup after coming off the bench for the majority of the season. He is a major factor in what 'Nova likes to do offensively. Villanova players will need to feed him on the low post where he has been most successful. Not only does he score most of the time down low, but he demands double teams. With that, it creates open shots for other players on the perimeter. In the win over Rutgers, there were multiple occasions where JVP got doubled down low and was able to kick it out to open shooters. In two back-to-back possessions Pinkston kicked it out to Hilliard in the corner for a three and hit James Bell on the outside where he also knocked one down from deep to give the Wildcats their first lead since early in the first half. Pinkston had 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in that win on Monday night against Rutgers. He should touch the ball on a high percentage of possessions because he just does so much for the 'Cats offensively.
Villanova has done a pretty good job this year of limiting what opposing teams' guards do against them offensively. Rutgers PG Myles Mack had 16 first half points and led Rutgers into halftime with a 10-point lead. The coaching staff and players made the proper adjustments at halftime and limited him to only 8 points in the second half. That has happened multiple times recently and has resulted in wins for Villanova. They basically shut down Russ Smith and Peyton Siva in the upset win over Louisville, and most recently vs Connecticut where Boatright and Napier combined for just 6 points compared to what they average together, (31 ppg).With that being said, Marquette is very good when their guards are on. When they are hot, Marquette usually comes out with a win. They are led by Junior Guard Vander Blue and Senior Guard Junior Cadougan. Blue is the leading scorer for the Golden Eagles, averaging just under 15 points per game, while Cadougan is more of a facilitator than Blue. He is dishing out 4.4 assists per game, while also scoring 9 points per game. Another factor for Marquette offensively is 6th-man Davante Gardner. He is used the same way Jay Wright used Pinkston coming off the bench. Gardner is definitely good enough to start for the Golden Eagles, but Head Coach Buzz Williams likes the energy and instant scoring that he brings. On the season, Gardner is averaging 12 point per game, and grabbing 5 rebounds per game. Villanova defensively, will need to know where all three of these players are on the court at all times.
Keep Turnovers Low Again
In the win over Rutgers, Villanova only turned the ball over seven times - a season low. All seven of those turnovers occurred in the first half. Ryan Arcidiacono played a key role in protecting the basketball. He finished the game with four assists and zero turnovers and did a great job of controlling the offense. When Villanova takes care of the ball it naturally results in more opportunities to score. Nova has to continue to keep turnovers to a minimum and must limit the Eagles’ ability to get in transition off of turnovers.
Mouphtaou Yarou will be the x-factor in this Big East matchup. This will also be his last game played at the Pavilion. All in all, Mouph has had a very productive Big East season. He has been a rebounding machine and has been most productive when he gets offensive rebounds and is able to go back up and score under the basket or even when he kicks it out and that lets the 'Cats set up their offense. Yarou has also been pretty consistent with that mid-range jump shot. Overall this year, Mouph has recorded seven double-doubles and has really emerged as a leader on this team. Mouph will come ready to play and will be a motivating factor for the rest of his teammates. I would think that the Villanova players would love for him to walk off the Pavilion floor for the last time with a win.
I think Villanova matches up very well against this Marquette team. This will be a very close game that I expect to go down to the final minutes of regulation. Villanova wins this basketball game because their defense will be very effective, and they will have timely scoring on the offensive end.
Villanova wins 64-60.