For just the second time this season, the Villanova Wildcats lost a close one on the road as they fell to the Marquette Golden Eagles 72-74 in Millwaukee. The Cats were just 2 of 12 from the field in the last 6:40 of the game, giving up a 17 point second half lead. Poor shooting was the theme for the night as Villanova finished just 17.6% from beyond the arc going 6 for 34.
Despite the cold offense, Villanova was actually in control of this one for most of the game, countering every Marquette run. This was more than impressive considering that Josh Hart missed half the game with foul trouble and Kris Jenkins was 0-7 from the field. It wasn’t until the last six minutes of the game that the Golden Eagles were able to finally make their comeback. Villanova’s only baskets in the final minutes were a break away lay-up off a steal and a tip in late to tie the game.
Mikal Bridges led the team with a career high 20 points and added 6 rebounds. Jalen Brunson had 19 despite going 0-6 from behind the arc. Josh Hart, who sat for almost half the game with foul trouble, finished with 16 points (14 in the second half) and 8 rebounds.
In the first half, the Wildcats jumped out to an early 8-0 lead off three Marquette turnovers. Josh Hart committed two early fouls and was forced to the bench for the final 15 minutes of the first half. But even with their star player on the bench, Villanova used their defensive pressure to create offense. The Cats forced 8 first half turnovers, including 6 steals, and won the rebounding battle 19-15. On offense, Jalen Brunson had 15 points, including 5-6 from the floor and 5-5 from the line, and Mikal Bridges added 10 points. Even with Hart and Jenkins only scoring 2 points each in the first half, Villanova went into the half leading 39-24.
Nova maintained their lead in the second half, and were still leading by 13 with 6:40 remaining in the game. From there Marquette was able to slowly cut into the Wildcat lead, and finally took their first lead of the game with 46 seconds remaining in the game. A tip in by Hart was able to tie the game, but Marquette was able to hit their free throws in the final minutes to ice the victory.
Marquette is the first team that Villanova is seeing for a second time around this season. In their first match-up, the Cats won 93-81 in a game where the Cats dominated much more than the final score would suggest. But the fact that Marquette was able to close a 30+ point gap to just 12 in the final minutes of that game shows just how potent their offense can be if Nova doesn’t keep up their intensity.
Now missing his 18th game, the talk around the team is that guard Phil Booth is looking less and less likely to return to the court for the Wildcats this season. If he is indeed sidelined for the rest of the year, he would be eligible to apply for a medical redshirt at the end of the season. If approved, he would still have two years of eligibility remaining for Villanova.
Villanova again started Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds, Jalen Brunson, and Mikal Bridges. Marquette won the tip, but was unable to take advantage of a mismatch underneath. Villanova was able to take advantage in the paint as Reynolds was able to grab an offensive board and back his man down for a bunny hook to give Nova the early two point lead.
The Wildcat defense was strong early, as they converted three consecutive Marquette turnovers into 6 straight points. Four different players scored Nova’s first four buckets as they jumped out to an early 8-0 lead with 17:22 left in the first half.
The Golden Eagles were finally able to get on the board off a pull up base-line jumper, but then they lost Reynolds on defense for a wide open dunk. Villanova’s first 10 points were all in the paint in a game that was supposed to feature a barrage of 3-pointers. At the 16 minute media timeout, each team had only attempted one from deep, and each had missed. Despite a sloppy turnover that sent the game to commercials, Nova still led 10-2 early in the first half.
However, on the next play Fischer got open down low for an easy basket and was able to pick up a second early foul on Josh Hart, who went to the bench with more than 15 minutes remaining in the half. Nova responded with a continued relentless effort and forced a 4th Marquette turnover. Jenkins was unable to convert on a short jumper, but Brunson was able to drive the paint for an easy two the next time down the court to extend the lead to 11.
Fischer began to become a problem for the smaller Villanova lineup, scoring again deep in the paint and drawing a foul on Bridges. He converted the And-1, and after an empty Nova possession, Marquette came rushing down the floor and found the open trailer for a wide open three. Just like that, Villanova’s lead was down to 5 with a score of 15-10 at the 13:16 mark.
Out of the timeout, Nova was able to quickly dismantle the Marquette zone for an easy dunk by Paschall. The two teams would then trade empty possesions before the Cats made an uncharacteristic foul on a jump shooter, sending Marquette to the line for two. They went 1 for 2, and Nova remained up 6. On the ensuing Nova possession, DiVincenzo was able to penetrate the 1-3-1 zone and Bridges cleaned up the glass for his 7th point of the night. Fischer was able to answer again in the paint, and after a Bridges miss from the corner, Marquette got another easy basket in the paint. Brunson then forced a deep three that missed, and Marquette raced down floor for a pull up three to cut the game to one point.
But it was Bridges night to step up with Hart on the bench, and he quieted the crowd as he answered with another three to give him 10 first half points. On defense they were finally able to get a stop on Fischer in the paint, and it resulted in a quick run out and a foul on Brunson, who went to the line for two with the Cats leading 22-18 and 9:31 left in the first half.
Out of the media timeout, Brunson went 2 for 2 to extend the lead to 6. Marquette missed on a deep three, but Paschall was unable to take advantage on the other end. The Cats came up with a stop of their own, but again couldn’t convert as DiVincenzo missed everything from three on the other end. Marquette finally found their way into the paint for a layup and DiVincenzo turned the ball over on the other end, forcing Jay Wright to take a timeout with his team clinging to a 24-20 lead at the 7:46 mark.
The teams traded missed threes on each end before Brunson was able to draw a foul off a shot fake he learned at the Kris Jenkins school of head fakes. Jenkins then found a cutting Brunson off the inbound for an And1 that resulted in three points. The defense again forced a difficult shot and miss for Marquette, and DiVincenzo hit a deep two on the other end to push the Wildcat lead to 9. Reynolds had an excellent shot block in the paint on the next possession, and then Jenkins added a block of his own to give Nova the ball back.
Brunson, who was having a lot of success getting into the paint early on, drew another foul and converted both free throws as the Nova lead was now back up to 11 with 5 minutes left in the half. Even while playing just 6 players for most of the first half, the Villanova defense remained stifling as Jenkins and Paschall worked together to force a turnover and call a timeout to regain possession. On the next possession, DiVincenzo found a cutting Bridges in mid-air, who readjusted and found Reynolds for the rare alley-assist. Villanova was now up 20-10 in points in the paint. The game went to the final media timeout of the half with Nova leading 33-20 and 3:42 left to play.
DiVincenzo put up his second air-ball of the night out of the timeout, resulting in a scramble and a jump ball that went to Marquette. But again, the Villanova pressure (this time in the form of the 1-2-2 press) was able to trap Marquette at the sideline and force them to call timeout. But the Cats were right back at it as Brunson stole a lazy pass for a break away layup to push the lead to 15. On the next possession, Brunson hit a mid-range jumper in the lane to give him 15 first half points. Marquette was finally able to put some points on the board, but Nova still led by 15 with under two minutes to play.
Marquette was able to cut the lead down to 13 as time ran down in the half, but Villanova was going to get the last shot. Marquette had a great defensive effort, but they committed a devastating foul with .2 seconds left in the half to put Jenkins on the line. He knocked down both free throws for his only points of the half, and the Wildcats went to the locker room up 15 despite their star player sitting for the last 15+ minutes.
Josh Hart was back on the court to start the second half after sitting for 56 minutes in real team. On their first possession, Nova was able to draw two fouls on Marquette. Then, Brunson missed everything on an air-ball, but Bridges was able to follow the play and save it to Jenkins. Then Bridges grabbed the offensive board off Jenkins miss and drew Marquette’s 3rd foul in under a minute. He’d hit both free throws to push the Nova lead up to 17, and that was all just 56 seconds into the first half.
Marquette was fouled and hit both free throws on the other end to cut the lead back to 15, and Villanova was unable to answer. Marquette was able to get the ball back to Fischer for an easy dunk, his 11th point, as the Eagles tried to cut into the Villanova lead. But Josh Hart was able to drive to the paint and get the And1 foul for a 3 point play. Marquette answered with a two of their own as the teams continued a back and forth affair in the second half.
Marquette started to cut into the lead with a three, and then a steal that resulted in a transition layup. Josh Hart answered by attacking the paint for a layup to end the quick Marquette run. At the 15:40 media timeout, Villanova retained its double digit lead at 46-35.
Out of the timeout, Jenkins found Hart in the post where he was able to draw another Marquette foul, but only made 1 of 2 from the line. Marquette answered with a runner in the lane, but their 1-3-1 defense left Bridges open in the corner for three. Marquette made a second great move to get points in the paint on their next possession, but again Bridges made them pay from the corner after Hart grabbed the offensive rebound. The Hart was able to get a steal, but uncharacteristically missed an open layup in transition. This miss opened the door slightly for Marquette as they hit a three to cut the lead to 11. But Paschall and Bridges were battling for rebounds down low, and Bridges was able to grab a loose ball and put back the missed attempt to push the lead back up to 13 with under 13 minutes left to play.
After a Marquette free throw, Hart pushed the lead back up to 15 again with an open three on the offensive end. Marquette answered, now feeling it in the paint. Hart missed an open three that led to a Marquette fast break, but Donte DiVincenzo was able to run it down and knock the ball out of bounds with Nova leading 58-45 and 10:46 left in the game.
The teams traded possessions out of the break before Fischer again threw down a monster dunk in the paint. Bridges took an off balance shot with time running out and DiVincenzo came flying in for the tip in as time expired. Then on Marquette’s possession, Brunson came up with the steal for an easy transition layup to push the lead back up to 15. It just seemed that every time Marquette tried to make a run, Villanova was able to end it and counter with one of their own.
Then at the 8:27 mark, Marquette’s Howard picked up his 5th foul and left the game with 0 points. The Eagles answered with a three to cut the lead to 11 again, but Hart answered with a three of his own on the other end. But Marquette refused to give up and hit another three. Then, Hart and Reynolds grabbed multiple offensive rebounds off their misses on the other end before Reynolds was finally able to put it back for 2 and push the lead back up to 13. Time was running out on the home team as Nova led 68-57 with 6:31 remaining.
After the commercial break, Fischer found himself at the line where he missed both free throws. But on the other end, Josh Hart picked up his 4th foul of the game on an offensive charge and went back to the bench. Then on the offensive end, Reynolds picked up his 4th foul and was also sent to the bench. But Fischer couldn’t capitalize, again missing two free throws.
After another Jenkins miss, Marquette connected on another three to cut the lead to 10. After a missed Paschall free throw, Marquette’s Cheatham was able to get to the line, but he was only able to hit one. Nova missed an alley-oop attempt on their end, and Marquette was again able to get into the paint and get to the line. AGAIN, they missed their first shot, but were able to hit the second. They were now two for their last 8. Bridges missed a pull up jumper, and this time Marquette was able to get a basket o cut the lead to 6. Villaonva remained cold on the offensive end as DiVincenzo missed an open three, and Marquette answered with a three of their own on the other end. Jay Wright was forced to call timeout as he watched his team’s lead dwindle to one possession with the score 68-65 and 2:51 remaining.
With Josh Hart back in the game, he made an immediate impact grabbing an offensive rebound off a Jenkins miss (Jenkins now 0-7 from the field, 0-6 from deep) and drew a foul in the process to send him to the line. He missed the front end of a 1 and 1, giving Marquette an opportunity, but Brunson jumped into a passing lane for a quick steal and transition basket to give Nova a 5 point lead. Marquette answered with a pull up jumper, and DiVincenzo missed a three pointer on the other end. Marquette’s Reinhardt nailed a deep fade away three to tie the game at 70-70 with 1:07 remaining as Jay Wright took Villanova’s final timeout.
Josh Hart had a good look at a three on Villanova’s next possession, but missed. On the rebound Bridges comitted a foul, putting Duan Wilson on the line where he hit both free throws for Marquette’s first lead of the game. Brunson missed his three point attempt, but Hart was there for the offensive put back to tie the game at 72-72. With 30 seconds left in the game and 25 left on the shot clock, Marquette called timeout to set up their final offensive set.
Marquette’s Reinhardt was fouled as he drove the paint, and hit both of his free throws with 11.6 seconds remaining. Then on the inbound, the clock was started before Brunson touched the ball, causing the refs to call a timeout to reset the clock and giving Nova (who had no timeouts) a chance to set their offense. On the inbounds, Brunson got a lane to the basket but was unable to finish and Hart couldn’t get the tip as Marquette picked up the two point victory and their fans drove the court.