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Wildcats get swept by the Golden Eagles... What now?

Some takeaways from the Villanova-Marquette game after a crushing loss.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova looked to split the regular season with Marquette during a late Wednesday night tip-off from the Fiserv Forum. This top 25 showdown did not disappoint, lots of punches thrown, shots drained and some defense played, but the Golden Eagles came out on top, 83-73.

A rocky start for the Cats gave Marquette a 7-0 lead after the first few possessions. Villanova had five turnovers within the first eight minutes, when historically they average less than 10. The ‘Cats then went on to chip away from the Marquette lead with quality contributions from Jermaine Samuels and Caleb Daniels. Villanova was within three with seven mins to go after Slater drained a 3 from the corner, but then was called for a technical foul. Marquette returned the counter punch, growing a 14 point lead ending the first half on a 12-1 run.

With a fresh 20 mins on the clock and a new half of basketball, Jay Wright and the team looked to chase down Marquette’s lead and play tight defense on a high quality shooting team. Villanova went straight to the basket for the first two possessions and things started to happen. The boys in blue weren’t going anywhere in the second half. Brandon Slater closed out a solid 3 point play with 14:36 left. The charge taken by Dixon propelled Villanova to keep the deficit to single digits. The Golden Eagles couldn’t seem to miss from beyond the arc. Their shooting has been beyond impressive. The Cats couldn’t seem to find the needed hot streak to tie this one up.

Some takeaways from the Marquette loss

Digging their own grave

Starting slow is one thing, but the ‘Cats seemed to be asleep for the 10pm start. The Golden Eagles came out hot and quickly built a double-digit lead, while the Wildcats were still getting warmed up. Marquette’s hot hand from beyond the arc seemed to be a common theme throughout the game. Struggling to defend screens and leaving men wide open, Villanova’s defense was subpar to start, only digging themselves a hole they would later try to climb out of. As much as you can rely on being a second half team against lower level programs, Marquette simply continually played well and responded to every run Villanova created. Villanova allows an average of 60.1 points per game, but it gave up 83. Defensively sound teams can deal with bad offensive nights, but sloppy defense paired with a high shooting percentage by Marquette hurts.

Scoring struggles

Villanova couldn’t get the shots to fall, especially from long range. The ‘Cats were a total of 23 of 60 overall, but 10-for-34 from beyond the arc. At times driving to the basket created quality opportunities for VIllanova. This team needs to find a consistent scorer to lean on when a timely basket is needed. Justin Moore has the ability to get around his defender and get to the rim multiple times last night including tallying his 1,000th point! Hopefully, after the ankle roll in the second half, Moore is okay, but he did return after a locker room visit.

The second half showed that Villanova created good opportunities but they couldn’t seal the deal with a make. The Wildcats cut it close multiple times, but could not get the game-changing basket to get in front. Villanova did cause over 15 turnovers, but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities on the other end of the floor. The Wildcats also were out rebounded in the game, 36-29.

Could this be a final spark the ‘Cats need to close out the season fired up?

This will be the third time that any team has swept Villanova in the regular season. Creighton and Butler each have previously done it since the creation of the “new Big East.” Marquette in both games this regular season played well against Villanova’s defense. The Golden Eagles clearly bought into Coach Shaka Smart’s game plan and were prepared to take down the ‘Cats.

Villanova, although not shooting their best, proves that even in losses there are positive takeaways. This includes better play from Brandon Slater and Jermaine Samuels. The slow development of this team could mean that all the pieces fall into place at the right time. Of course, the Cats hope to remain healthy and also recoup Bryan Antoine, who has also been out with an injury.

With UConn and St. John’s coming up, will the ‘Cats refocus and make necessary adjustments to play good quality basketball? I guess we will see in this upcoming weekend.

Although it might not have been the result we wanted, the Cats showed resilience while Marquette shed some light on shortcomings.

Lots of time to make adjustments before the Big East Tournament March 11th-14th. Coming up next for the Cats, they host the UConn Huskies at Wells Fargo Center this Saturday at 12:00pm. Followed by a battle in the most famous arena, MSG against St. John’s.

Side note: I am banning myself from writing for any Marquette games in the future in hopes that I end the losing streak.