Last Wednesday, the Wildcats emerged victorious over Butler. Even though they had won, one of the bigger stories was how both teams got off to an ugly start. For some, it raised more questions about Villanova, instead of answering them. Before the Butler game, they needed double overtime to finish Providence and beat unranked St. John’s by three in a turnover riddled game. Today, they put the past behind them and proved doubters wrong.
Darrun Hilliard kicked off the game with a three pointer, it would be the first of many. James Bell would pick up two quick fouls in the opening minutes of the game, resulting in him sitting out for most of the half. Jay Wright would look to his bench, and they stepped up and delivered. They made a number of big plays and were a force offensively and defensively. Whenever Davante Gardner was in the post, the Wildcats swarmed and clogged the paint, giving him no easy looks. There was a lot of hustle and drive for the blue and white, diving and fighting for loose balls. One instance was Kris Jenkins who ran from the other side of the perimeter to dive into the crowd to save the ball. It resulted in a JayVaughn Pinkston layup. Tony Chennault would follow that basket up with a tough and-one in transition after Villanova forced a steal. In the closing minutes of the first half, Marquette head coach Buzz Williams would pick up a technical foul. He was not happy with the referees’ call after trying to call a time out that his team was not awarded. Hilliard would convert both free throws. Due to the technical foul, Villanova would get the ball again. With the clock winding down, Hilliard topped off his amazing first half with a three pointer in the final seconds. The Wildcats took 36-25 lead into the half.
In the second half, the Wildcats continued to play with high energy and that fire as if the score was 0-0. They began the half with a 12-4 run that included three baskets from long range. They were moving the ball very well, spreading it around on the floor. Inside or outside, it didn’t matter, the shots were dropping. The unselfish play and great teamwork on offense and defense was reflected on the scoreboard. Villanova was able to stretch the lead into the 20s. With about two minutes to go, Dylan Ennis provided the last basket for the Wildcats with a three pointer. They easily cruised to victory with the big lead that they built for themselves. Ennis would scoop up the rebound after a meaningless last second attempt for Marquette and the final buzzer would go off. The final score was 73-56.
With postseason play around the corner, having a bench that can contribute valuable minutes is big if you want a big run. Villanova’s bench stepped it up today and showed great promise once again. They combined for 26 of Villanova’s 73 points.
Darrun Hilliard set a new career high for points in a single game. The junior guard finished with 26 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and a pair of steals. He drained five baskets from long range. Josh Hart added 13 points and 4 rebounds off the bench before fouling out late into the second half. He shot well from beyond the arc, going 3 for 5. Pinkston chipped in 11 points and 7 rebounds for the Wildcats.
For Marquette, Deonte Burton came off the bench and led the scoring for the Golden Eagles. Burton had 13 points and 4 steals. Todd Mayo came into the game and put up 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. One of the big questions going into the game was how would Villanova contain Davante Gardner after he had a big game the first time the two teams played. Marquette is known for their size and post play, and the 6’8″, 290 pound titan excels inside. The Wildcats simply responded with great hustle and toughness. They played with heart and they played like they were 10 feet tall against Gardner, swarming to him as soon as he got the ball. Gardner was held to only 8 points.
Villanova picks up their 26th win, setting a new program high for wins during the regular season. With the number of upsets that took place yesterday, they will most likely move up in the polls. The Wildcats will head over to Cincinnati to take on the Xavier Musketeers this Thursday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.