Just another week the Villanova Wildcats are atop the AP poll, now making it 12 weeks this season! The ‘Cats will hit the road to put their #1 ranking on the line Tuesday night in a rematch with the Marquette Golden Eagles. Marquette comes into the game playing their best basketball of the season. Steve Wojciechowski’s squad recently pulled off their biggest win of the season with an upset victory over Creighton in Omaha on Saturday (albeit without star PG Maurice Watson).
In the first match up between these teams on January 7th, Nova dominated the Golden Eagles in a 93-81 victory. The final score doesn’t do the Wildcats’ performance justice as Marquette closed the game on a 12-0 run in garbage time just to look respectable. The ‘Cats had one of their best offensive games of the year shooting 65% from the field and 61% from beyond the arc. Here are a few things to watch this time around.
Containing the 3 Ball
It is well known by now that Marquette can really shoot from beyond the arc. They currently lead the Big East and are 4th nationally in 3-Point Field Goal Percentage at 41.7%. Nova saw first hand how dangerous they can be shooting the ball as they knocked down 14-31 (45.2%) of their three pointers in the first meeting. Jay Wright was not happy with the team’s three point defense in that game and has pointed out inconsistencies in that area multiple times this year (even though the team is 10th in the nation in opponent three point %).
The ‘Cats have to be particularly aware of freshmen Markus Howard and Sam Hauser who are shooting a ridiculous 50.6% and 47.6% respectively from 3. Howard is a quick point guard that can hurt you in a variety of ways and is making a name for himself early in his Big East career averaging 12.8 ppg. Hauser is more of a shooting specialist with good size at 6-7, as 71.8% of his shots have come from beyond the arc. The ‘Cats have to be aware of his location at all times and be sure to run him off the three point line.
Stopping Luke Fischer
While Marquette is known as a big time shooting team, the true key to their success might be 6-11 forward Luke Fischer. Fischer has been inconsistent all year, but is coming off one of his best games of the year with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 blocks against Creighton. When Fischer is at his best he gives the Golden Eagles a consistent threat in the paint offensively to compliment their shooters and a high level rim protector.
Darryl Reynolds and company did a great job stopping Fischer in the first game as he put up 4 points on 1-5 shooting. By containing Fischer, Nova can make Marquette one dimensional on offense forcing them to live and (hopefully) die by the three.
Managing Tired Legs
As the Wildcats enter the heart of a grueling Big East schedule, Jay Wright will be tasked with something he may not be used to: Managing a thin rotation so players don’t wear out down the stretch. With Phil Booth still out and no return in sight, the rotation has been at 7 players for the entire season.
This game especially jumps out as one that the Wildcats could show some fatigue. The team just played a game on Saturday and has a quick turnaround for a tough road game. With Eric Paschall getting in early foul trouble on Saturday, the ‘Cats were down to a 6 man rotation and all 6 played 27+ minutes. While they won that game easily, Providence fought hard and may have worn them down a little bit. Don’t be surprised to see coach Wright roll out the zone defense at times against Marquette to keep the guys fresh for this game and the future.