The Villanova Wildcats held on to squeeze past the Marquette Golden Eagles 72-71 Wednesday night at the Finneran Pavilion to improve to 18-6 overall and 8-4 in Big East play.
Contrary to the way the Wildcats games have gone for most of the season, particularly Big East play, Villanova started out hot in this one. The Wildcats set out to end a three game losing streak and the most they fell behind in the opening minutes was a 5-3 deficit. From there, Villanova took over.
The Wildcat lead grew to as much as 15 during the first half and they held a 38-29 advantage at the half.
This wasn’t an ordinary halftime either, with the Wildcats honoring former star Ryan Arcidiacono by retiring his jersey. A Wildcat from 2012-2016, Arch brought the program back from its lowest point under Jay Wright and ended his career with an assist to Kris Jenkins to win the National Championship.
After the ceremony and the start of the second half, the Wildcat lead grew to 18, with Villanova holding a 49-31 advantage with 15:52 left.
Marquette slowly got back into and cut the lead to single digits, but a Collin Gillespie three with 2:03 left pushed the Wildcat lead back to 70-60. Markus Howard scored 11 points in the next two minutes, and along with some free throw misses by Villanova the lead was cut to just three. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl did make one of two to expand the lead to four and render the Howard’s last three points meaningless in the game. The shot did, however, make Howard the Big East’s all time leading scorer.
Howard finished with 24 points and five rebounds on 8-20 shooting from the field.
Robinson-Earl led the way for Villanova with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists for his seventh double-double of the season. Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels chipped in 14 points and four assists each, and Saddiq Bey the other Wildcat in double figures with 10 points 3-8 shooting to go with two rebounds.
The Wildcats shot 9-31 (29%) from three, and 15-21 (71.4%) from the free throw line.
Villanova returns to action Sunday at 1:00 P.M. in their final Big 5 game of the season at the Liacouras Center against Temple.