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Paint pain: Marquette pulls past Villanova in 87-74 loss

After a back-and-forth first half, the Wildcats couldn’t keep up Marquette in the second. The Golden Eagles dropped 60 points in the paint.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Marquette Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette sentenced Villanova to death by 1,000 paper cuts on Monday afternoon, with Oso Ighodaro and Kam Jones leading the charge inside, while Tyler Kolek helped out and facilitated an offensive attack that saw a series of cuts and interior dominance by the Golden Eagles.

Villanova had an answer early, providing a counter punch for every Golden Eagle basket or rally to begin the game, but after the halftime break — and especially late — the ‘Cats could no longer keep up with them, while Marquette capitalized on defensive miscues.

The Golden Eagles piled up 60 points in the paint, while shooting 30-of-40 (75%) inside the arc, as they pulled away for an 87-74 victory.

The win brought Marquette back to .500 in conference play, after entering Monday with back-to-back losses. As for the ‘Cats, it is their second loss in three games.

The Wildcats entered the game with one of the top defenses in the country, ranking 26th overall in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They limited opponents to shooting just 45.4% inside the arc, the 37th best mark out 362 Division I schools.

Despite that, Marquette was unstoppable inside. An Eric Dixon three-pointer tied the game up for the ‘Cats with 10:01 remaining in the game, but the Golden Eagles would go on a game-changing 12-0 run to pull away.

Villanova wouldn’t hit a shot for nearly five minutes, but once it finally broke the dry spell, it was too late. The Wildcats didn’t have an answer for Marquette’s movement and the Golden Eagles used another late scoring spurt to seal the victory and put the game away.

The Wildcats managed to hang tight throughout the first half. It was a back-and-forth start to the game, with both teams trading baskets and the lead. Neither team led by more than six points, as Marquette took a 43-40 lead after the high-scoring start.

The Wildcats hit nine 3-pointers in the first half, but overall, they showed solid off-ball movement and matched Marquette’s intensity.

They would only make five 3-pointers for the remainder of the game and despite doubling the Golden Eagles’ seven made three-pointers, they didn’t have a solution for Marquette’s interior attack.

Kam Jones led the Golden Eagles with 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting, with six boards, four assists and a steal. Tyler Kolek posted a 21-point, 11-assist double-double. Oso Ighodaro was also a handful inside, chipping in 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting, with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

As a team, Marquette shot 37-of-63 overall (58.7%) and 7-of-23 (30.4%) from long range. The Golden Eagles only committed three turnovers.

For Villanova, Mark Armstrong finished with a game-high 24 points. He shot 5-of-9 from long range and added two boards, three assists, a block and a steal. Eric Dixon added 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. Brendan Hausen, who was inserted into the starting five for Monday, added 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting.

With the loss, Villanova drops to 11-6 overall and 4-2 in Big East play. The Wildcats will return home for a marquee Saturday night showdown with UConn. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET at the Wells Fargo Center.