“Shoot ’em up, sleep in the streets.”
If you’re familiar with Villanova basketball, that’s a saying that you probably know all too well. The Wildcats lived up to their motto tonight, starting off slowly against the Marquette Golden Eagles. Villanova was cold to begin the game, but they never faltered. Once they were able to heat up, they took off.
Marquette found early success attacking the basket, driving their way inside and putting points on the board. Meanwhile, the Wildcats struggled with hanging onto the ball. The Wildcats turned the ball over five times in their first seven possessions. Marquette quickly got out to a 6-2 lead.
“At the start of the game we had a chance to have a lead and we missed five or six point-blank layups,” said Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski. “Missing those early opportunities took the wind out of our sails.”
The Golden Eagles weren’t the only ones to hit a shooting slump, the Wildcats had their fair share of troubles too. Both teams hit a dry spell that lasted for 5:20, neither team was able to make a single shot. During this stretch, both teams combined for 17 missed shots. The crowd was growing restless as shot after shot rimmed out and missed its mark. On the bright side, Villanova was able to add three points from the free throw line, allowing for Josh Hart to eventually end the shooting woes. Hart’s layup made it 7-6 in Villanova’s favor with 11:34 remaining. He was fouled on the way up, but missed the free throw. However, the Wildcats would collect the offensive rebound. Kris Jenkins drilled a corner three to make it 10-6.
“Our defense kept us in it while we were sloppy offensively,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright.
The Wildcats would go on to build a 12-6 lead, until back-to-back three pointers by Matt Carlino instantly tied the game up. Villanova answered back with a 12-0 run that lasted nearly five minutes, leaving their opponents in the dust. Eventually their early struggles were quickly forgotten about, as the Wildcats would go into the half with a 36-19 lead. The crowd was back in good spirits and Villanova looked like its dominant self once again. It appeared that Villanova would take a 20 point lead into the break, but a Carlino three pointer in closing seconds spoiled their plans.
It was not a pretty half for either team. Marquette turned the ball over 11 times, while Villanova gave it up eight times. The Wildcats would go on to turn the ball over an uncharacteristic total of 15 times. Villanova averaged only 11 turnovers per game. Marquette shot a mediocre 23.3% (7-of-23). The Wildcats were slightly better, shooting 32.4% overall.
The second half began the same way the first one did. Marquette took it inside primarily relying on big man Luke Fischer. The Golden Eagles scored the first five minutes of the half, before play was stopped.
“We do what we do, like we did today,” said Darrun Hilliard. “It’s going to be ugly and not very pretty but we’ll grind, rebound the ball and get stops.”
Ryan Arcidiacono unleashed a nice pump fake that got Matt Carlino to fall for it. Carlino jumped and got tangled up while he was in midair. A clean landing was out of the question as he lost control of his body. He hit the floor hard, appearing to land on his head or shoulder area. The loud thump produced by his body hitting the hardwood echoed throughout the Wells Fargo Center as the crowd quieted down in shock. Coach Wojciechowski immediately tended to his player. After a few minutes, he would be helped up and jog off on his own accord. He would later return to the game.
Villanova scored eight straight points to bring the lead back into the 20s. The Wildcats had a 44-24 lead with 15:53 remaining. They were able to hang onto their big lead and ride it all the way to the final buzzer. Along the way, Villanova supplied a number of highlight plays and three pointers. One such highlight was provided by Dylan Ennis.
Daniel Ochefu stole the ball, which found its way into JayVaughn Pinkston‘s arms. Pinkston passed it to Ennis, who had no one around him. Ennis went up and cocked his arm all the way back for a vicious fast break slam dunk. He would later find himself on the opposite end of a great play. He was the sender instead of the receiver, sending a deep pass to Josh Hart. The ball gracefully plopped into Hart’s hands, which then became the tool for a fierce dunk.
“This Villanova team reminds me a lot of the Villanova team that went to the Final Four,” added Coach Wojciechowski. “They have an outstanding combination of veteran, tough guards and rock-solid size.”
All three members of the Bench Mob would check into the game with 1:03 remaining, much to the crowd’s delight. After overcoming some early difficulties, the Wildcats eased their way to victory, winning 70-52.
The second half was a much better display for Villanova. They sank 44.4% (12-of-27) of their shots. The Wildcats found greater success from long range, shooting 6-for-12. They also outrebounded the Golden Eagles, 44-38. Meanwhile, Marquette was able to find their shooting stroke as well. They were slightly more efficient than the Wildcats, shooting 46.7%. However, most of this success did not come until the later stages of the second half, when the game was pretty much already decided.
Five players finished in double figures for the Wildcats – Ryan Arcidiacono (18), Darrun Hilliard (12), Josh Hart (11), Phil Booth (10), and JayVaughn Pinkston (10). Arcidiacono was 4-for-7 from long range. Pinkston added seven rebounds, while Daniel Ochefu had a team-high nine boards.
For Marquette, Jajuan Johnson had a team-high 10 points. Matt Carlino added nine points and nine rebounds.
Villanova improves to 20-2 overall and 7-2 in conference play. They will resume action this Saturday, February 7, when they take on Big East rival #24 Georgetown. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.
“Last time they played us good; they outplayed us,” said Jay Wright. “I know our guys are excited to play because they want to see how far they’ve come since that game.”