Jay Wright has reached yet another milestone with the Villanova Wildcats.
With his Wildcats’ victory over the Marquette Golden Eagles, he now has 400 wins as Villanova’s head coach and his 522nd overall for his entire career. He was able to celebrate the accomplishment in front of a home crowd that braved the frigid Saturday night weather—and in turn—they were treated with a 100-90 wire-to-wire victory over the Golden Eagles.
While Villanova never gave up the lead, the Wildcats saw a comfortable double digit margin evaporate with a resilient, last-minute effort by the Golden Eagles.
Once trailing by as much as 17 in the second half, Marquette got as close as chipping the deficit down to five. The Golden Eagles refused to go away quietly in the closing minutes of the game--pressing the ‘Cats, answering almost every made basket, and forcing turnovers. However, the Wildcats were able to deliver in the final minute of the game, getting the job done at the free throw line in what felt like an eternity for the last 60 seconds. At the charity stripe, they converted 11 of their final 14 foul shots to stave off the Golden Eagles and hang on for the win.
It was an ending that was a little closer than Villanova would have possibly liked, and it contrasted with the Wildcats’ hot start to begin the game.
’Nova was able to dart ahead to a quick lead, using a series of three-pointers to grab the lead after opening tip-off. Eric Paschall nailed a pair of shots from beyond the arc to get the game going, as the Wildcats started the Saturday night showdown with a different demeanor previous game against Butler. Villanova got into a rhythm quickly on offense, and it seemed to just get better as the game progressed.
The Wildcats seemed to be able to do whatever they wanted, picking apart the Golden Eagles with a balanced attack. They were moving the ball well, assisting on 20 of their 32 baskets for the game. Whether they wanted to shoot the three-ball or rumble inside, they seemed to be able to comfortably get an open look or a great shot take. A five-point swing by a Donte DiVincenzo three and then a Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree dunk pushed the lead into double figures, giving the ‘Cats a 36-24 lead with 5:27 remaining in the first half. The lead would remain in double digits, and Villanova would edge Marquette, 46-34, going into halftime.
The second half seemed to be more of the same, until Marquette was able to strong together a 9-0 run topped off by a Markus Howard layup to chip into the Wildcat lead and bring it down to single digits for the first time since the opening half. During that stretch, the WIldcats went approximately three minutes without a single basket. They were able to find their bearings again and extend the lead back into double figures. It appeared to be all but the end of the Golden Eagles, until they stormed back into the game and made things interesting again.
Ultimately, Villanova was able to hang on and get back on track.
Villanova had six players score in double digits--Paschall, Cosby-Roundtree, DiVincenzo, Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges, and Jalen Brunson.
Brunson led the way with 27 points and was quite the facilitator offensively. He tallied eight assists, while only turning the ball over twice. He provided another highlight play with an ankle-breaking move that he turned into a mid-range jumper, dropping Howard in the process. It was probably the only lowlight of the Marquette sophomore’s night, as he ended up finishing with a game-high 37 points, with four rebounds and eight assists to go along with his high-scoring performance.
Aside from Brunson, Paschall finished with 19 points and was 5-for-6 on the floor, including a perfect 3-of-3 from deep. Bridges added 18 points, while DiVincenzo chipped in 14 towards the winning effort. Cosby-Roundtree and Booth both had 10 points each.
Marquette got some help Sacar Anim’s 14-point game. Sam Hauser and Greg Elliott had 13 points each. Andrew Rowsey, the second-highest scorer in the Big East, struggled against the ‘Nova defense. He was restricted to six points and shot just 2-of-12 on the floor.
Now standing at 14-1 overall and 2-1 in the Big East, the Wildcats will look forward to the highly-anticipated meeting between them and the Xavier Musketeers. The Musketeers are coming off of a stunning loss to the Providence Friars. Tip-off is scheduled for this Wednesday night, at 7 p.m.