A sold out crowd of over 17,500 came to the Fiserv Forum today to see the face-off between top two teams in the Big East, as the #10 Marquette Golden Eagles (20-4, 9-2) outlasted the #14 Villanova Wildcats (19-5, 10-1) 66-65.
It came down to the final buzzer in this battle of Big East foes, as Villanova had a chance for heroics while down 66-65 with 14 seconds left to play. After the timeout, senior Phil Booth was double-teamed as he drove to the hoop, and eventually passed it back to Jermaine Samuels who missed an awkward jumper as time expired.
One major aspect of the game was Villanova’s inability to find an answer for Marquette’s Markus Howard. For most of this afternoon’s contest, the National Player of the Year candidate looked unstoppable as he finished with 38 points. Howard was 5-of-11 from long distance and a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
Jay Wright’s senior captains, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall turned in a valiant effort, dropping 19 and 17 points respectively.
The Golden Eagles connected on their first 7 shots in the second half while the defending National Champions were a horrific 3 of 21 from three, and found themselves in a 47-32 hole with 12:51 to go in the game. It took a 23-6 run by Villanova, led by underclassmen Jermaine Samuels (9 points) and Saddiq Bey (10 points).
The Wildcats fought there way back and put the Fiserv Forum on edge. Unfortunately, their comeback bid fell just short.
Marquette took a 66-63 lead when Howard made a pair of free throws with 53 seconds left, after a controversial over-the-back foul call on sophomore Samuels. Booth connected on a floater to make it a one-point game, and Saddiq Bey stripped Howard to set up the final possession for the Wildcats with 14 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats were winners of eleven straight before today’s matchup. They move on to play Providence on Feb. 13 at the Finneran Pavilion. Marquette will travel to Chicago to take on DePaul on Tuesday night.
They will meet again on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the Finneran Pavilion for a rematch, when the series heads back to campus.