Marquette made today's game a battle, just like always. But the No. 4 Villanova Wildcats held on to win against the Golden Eagles 94-85 in overtime. James Bell led the 'Cats with 30 points, and Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard added 20 apiece. For Marquette, Davante Gardner finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds.
In overtime, Arcidiacono took over, driving to the hoop, creating shots for others late in the shot clock, and grabbing offensive rebounds. Then the Wildcats made their free throws at the end, sealing a victory that they should have had 5 minutes earlier, for either of two reasons.
Villanova missed key free throws down the stretch as Marquette climbed back from a 71-62 deficit with 2:36. Arch made a few late ones in regulation to put Marquette on the brink, but a pretty fadeaway 3-pointer by Todd Mayo and consistent layups gave Marquette a tie with 4.8 seconds remaining. Mayo had 10 points in the last 35 seconds of regulation.
Tony Chennult took the inbounds pass, and in Scottie Reynolds-fashion, drove the length of the court and connected on a layup for the win as time expired, until one of the refs waved off the bucket and called an offensive foul. The defender's feet were clearly in the arc, and it should not have been called. But in overtime they held on.
The game was close the entire time. After leading by 7 at halftime, Darrun Hilliard hit a quick three and then added a layup to give Villanova a double-digit lead at 43-33, nearly the largest Villanova would see the rest of the way.
Gardner continued to bully the undersized forwards inside as Marquette brought the game to within 3 points multiple times.At the halfway mark of the second half, Marquette had 36 points in the paint compared to Villanova's 10. At one point, Gardner and Mayo scored 15 straight of the Golden Eagles' points. With Ochefu playing (or not playing) in foul trouble for most of the second half, it became easy for Marquette's bigs to bully the undersized Wildcat forwards down low.
Villanova made sure to leave any doubts of a first-half hangover from the Creighton game behind. Bell and Hilliard both hit early 3-pointers to help the Wildcats race out to an early 8-2 lead, and led 8-4 at the first media timeout.
Marquette turned the ball over 3 times in the first 5+ minutes, while Villanova did not commit one until 12:52 left in the first half, when Dylan Ennis was called for a charge after passing the ball off to Tony Chennault.
Neither team would really pull away in the first 15 or so minutes, with the lead staying within 6 for the entire time.
Marquette clawed back into the game on with multiple and-1 layups, bringing the score to 22-21. James Bell was the only Wildcat to make a field goal from the 10:46 mark until 5:45 remained in the half. Tahj was EN FUEGO during the first half, rattling off 15 points in the first 15 minutes on 3-5 shooting from deep, and gave Villanova a 30-22 lead.
But the Golden Eagles kept fighting in the paint, where they scored the majority of their points. Davante Gardner drew an and-1 on Ochefu to bring the lead back down to three. Villanova managed to strike back with threes from Hilliard and Arch to extend the lead heading into halftime, 38-31.
At halftime, Jay Wright was asked about the start to this game, and he responded, "Believe it or not, we could have been down 20 right now and it still would have been a better start than Monday."
Bell led the Wildcats with 15 points at halftime, and Hilliard contributed 9 to the effort. Ochefu had 0 points but grabbed 7 boards in a solid effort. Gardner led the Golden Eagles with 8 first-half points.
Marquette shot 52% in the first half, but never led. They only shot five 3-pointers, making just one. Villanova shot 46%, including 7-17 (42%) from deep. Ochefu, Hart, and Ennis combined for no points and 11 rebounds.
Villanova goes to 6-1 in the Big East with the win, and 17-2 overall. Marquette falls to 11-9 on the year, and is under .500 in-conference at 3-4.
Gardner scored all of Marquette's points in overtime. Villanova's top 3 scorers combined for 70 points, and Marquette's top 3 totaled 63. Only 6 Wildcats scored, as Hart, Jenkins, and Ennis were held scoreless. Both teams had single-digit turnover totals.
It's worth noting that JayVaughn Pinkston may have had the play of the game, holding back Jay Wright at the end of regulation. A technical foul easily could have been called, resulting in a Marquette victory.