Back in the Finneran Pavilion, the Villanova Wildcats battled against the Marquette Golden Eagles losing a tough one, 57-54. The winning streak from the Finn is cut at 29, and Marquette earns its first ever win in the on-campus arena.
The first half seemed like a steady back and forth. Shaka Smart and the Golden Eagles were well-prepared and capitalized on sloppy switches along the arc. Coming out with a hot hand, Justin Moore kept the ‘Cats in the game scoring a quick 10.
Even when not shooting their best, Villanova glimpse of light by creating off the dribble and finding Eric Dixon under the rim. Back in his #2 jersey after switching to #31 due to blood stains for a bit of the first half, Collin Gillespie tied the game up with a 3 with 3 mins left. Jermaine Samuels followed with a tough finish and Brandon Slater took a huge charge and created another stop to continue the momentum.
Coming into the second half down one, the ‘Cats needed to shoot better and play some better defense, which did not seem to pan out. Villanova grew the lead to 9 with just under 11 mins to go, 45-36. Later, Villanova’s 5 minute scoring drought ended with 2:19 to go, when Collin Gillespie drove to the rim jump-stopped and finished for an and 1 putting Villanova up four. That was the only time Villanova scored in the last 7:30.
Lots to take away from the loss…
Get to the rim. Force teams to foul you or make a play.
In the first half, Villanova did not get to the foul line a single time. Maybe due to solid clean defense from Marquette, but most likely from lack of challenging and getting to the rim. Villanova collectively settled for safe passes along the perimeter instead of creating off the dribble. Even a simple entry pass into Dixon has the opportunity to open up free looks on a kick out.
Relying too heavily on the three has historically left this team with multiple losses especially when not shooting well. In the past, adjustments usually are made and focus turns to driving at the rim, but the team did not have it.
Although the ‘Cats are known for being patient and making the extra pass, they were a bit static and waited late in the shot clock often lending itself to poor shot selection and rushed and contested shot attempts.
Jay Wright’s halftime speech must’ve included something along the lines of “make them foul you” because the ‘Cats were in the bonus with around 5 mins to go, but still lacking the tough drives to the basket and not forcing defenses to collapse.
Looking toward the future, who will step up and continue to find the rim or make defenses collapse? Moore and Gillepsie often try, but can Slater and Daniels more effectively use their skills.
Inconsistent defense allows teams to hang around.
Although the Golden Eagles channeled their best Golden State Warriors impression, Villanova needs to be better at defending the three. The ‘Cats struggled hedging or switching on screens leaving Marquette with wide open looks from beyond the arc.
Marquette hit 13 threes in total, Justin Lewis chipped in 5 of those including the go-ahead three with 11.9 seconds to go. Communication between the two defenders seemed to be lost and created trouble early. Closeouts looked to be sloppy too.
Villanova was solid on the boards, putting up 27 defensive rebounds. Jermaine Samuels contributed 8 of those. While they might not have given up a lot of second chance opportunities, the first chances were just too open.
Wednesday’s game is a reminder that every team brings their “A” game when stepping up against Villanova.
Spreading the Floor. Increasing Options.
Although the ‘Cats had trouble scoring in parts, Villanova still finished with three players in double digits. Eric Dixon led the team with 15 points, followed by Gillespie and Moore with 10 and 13 respectively.
While impressive, it wasn’t enough to defeat the Golden Eagles. Wednesday’s defense did not help the struggles on the offensive end. Villanova needed other players to step up, but that didn’t happen.
Villanova left too many possessions down to the final seconds of the shot clock, not allowing anyone to take a clean look. More game awareness when the shot clock hits 10 seconds could be beneficial to running a proactive simple last chance set instead of putting up a highly contested three.
While Jay did look to play the younger Wildcats in the first half, they did not seem to contribute what the team needed. Bryan Antoine got burned early on a backdoor slip cup while in a 2-3 zone and looked a little uncomfortable on the offensive end. Longino also saw some time but wasn’t too high impact. Jay Wright stuck to the 6 man rotation in the second half.
Looking ahead, the Villanova Wildcats travel to Georgetown this weekend and then they will be back in the Finn for DePaul and St. John’s.