After snatching one late at Finneran Pavilion off of a clutch Justin Lewis shot, Marquette didn’t waste any time to get started in a rematch against Villanova on Wednesday night.
There was no clutch shot or luck needed, as the Golden Eagles asserted themselves all night in a wire-to-wire beatdown over Villanova. The ‘Cats had their moments, but ultimately never caught up to Marquette, who won 83-73 to complete the regular season series sweep.
With the win, Marquette becomes the first team since 2016-17 Butler to sweep the Wildcats in the regular season and just the third squad since conference realignment to do so.
“When we are locked in defensively and lost in the fight, we are as good as any team in the country,” Marquette guard Darryl Morsell said. “I tried to warn people. ... We are confident right now.”
Morsell helped set the tone early, burying a three-pointer to open the game. He was also a menace on the defensive end. Marquette clamped down on the ‘Cats to start, pressuring them into turnovers and flustering them.
Villanova turned it over four times in the first four minutes, and Marquette quickly built a 15-6 run to start.
“They just jumped on us early, we didn’t handle their pressure well,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Then, you’re on an uphill battle against a team that defends well and shoots threes. You gotta give them credit.
“Their pressure surprised me a little bit with how much (it affected us). I saw our guys being tentative, not being aggressive to go after them. Prosper’s great at the top of the press. His length, then the guys on the wings like Morsell, Kuath in the back of the press stepping up. We got in a big hole early and on the road against a good team like that, you can’t do that.”
The Wildcats regrouped and started finding some momentum offensively. They chipped away at the deficit, before Brandon Slater knocked down a three-pointer to make it a three-point game with 7:26 remaining in the first half.
Slater’s three cut it down to 30-27, but he was whistled for a technical foul after making the shot. That would be the closest the ‘Cats would ever get to catching the Golden Eagles.
According to Wright, Slater was given the technical for cursing at the Marquette bench.
“We battled, but you can’t play five or seven minutes like that to start the game,” Wright said. “Then those turnovers, we’re not getting set in our defense, and they’re getting open threes. The beginning of that game was key.”
Marquette responded with an 11-0 run to extend its lead back into double figures. The Golden Eagles went on to take a 46-32 lead at the half.
After the break, the ‘Cats started well to open the second half. They worked to cut the game back down into single digits and brought it to within four, but once again, the Golden Eagles buckled down and pulled away down the stretch.
Brandon Slater had a team-high 18 points and went 9-for-9 from the free throw line. Collin Gillespie added 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting, with four assists. Caleb Daniels chipped in 15 points. Jermaine Samuels had 10 points, four rebounds and two steals. Justin Moore was limited to seven points and six rebounds, and went 2-of-11 on the floor. He appeared to injure his ankle during a play, but was able to reenter later in the game.
The ‘Cats never found a rhythm from long range, shooting just 10-of-34 (29.4%) as a team.
For Marquette, Justin Lewis impressed once again with a 19-point, nine-rebound performance. He shot 4-of-5 from long range. Tyler Kolek had 18 points, six assists and two steals. Morsell had 15 points and two blocks before fouling out.
“When we recruited him out of high school, we loved him,” Wright said about Morsell. “I’m not surprised at anything he’s done over his career. When I saw that he was coming to the Marquette, I knew that was going to be a problem. For us in the Big East, he’s another outstanding player in all levels of the game.”
With the loss, Villanova drops to 16-6 overall and 9-3 in Big East play. The Wildcats will look to bounce back at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, when they take on the UConn Huskies for a 12 p.m. ET matinee.