The No. 6 Villanova Wildcats (15-2) improved to 5-0 in the Big East with an 83-68 victory over the Marquette Golden Eagles (12-5) on Wednesday night at the Pavilion. Junior forward Kris Jenkins led the way for the Wildcats with 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting and three three-pointers in the contest.
“My teammates do a good job of creating offense”, said Jenkins after the game. “I was just trying to make the right plays at the right time. I was trying to be aggressive.”
Along with Jenkins, the starting guard trio of Ryan Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, and Josh Hart all scored in double figures as well. Brunson added 14 points, while Arcidiacono poured in 12 points and Hart finished with 10 points. Sophomore guard Phil Booth led the Wildcats’ offensive attack off the bench with 10 points, as Villanova outscored Marquette 23-9 in bench points.
“The guys off the bench bring energy defensively and on the offensive glass”, said Villanova head coach Jay Wright in the postgame press conference. “You don’t need a lot of depth but you need good depth. We’re starting to get that.”
Senior big man Daniel Ochefu controlled the boards for the Wildcats all night, finishing with 13 rebounds in the game.
What won this game for the Wildcats first and foremost was their defensive performance in the second half. After allowing Marquette to shoot 62% from the field and 50% from three in the first half, the ’Cats held the Golden Eagles to 30% shooting from the field and 21% shooting from behind the three-point line in the second half.
In addition, Villanova’s defense forced Marquette into 14 turnovers which the Wildcats would convert into 23 points. While Marquette was able to force the ’Cats into 10 turnovers, it was only able to create 12 points off those turnovers.
Another important part to Villanova’s win was its ability to make adjustments offensively in the second half. After shooting a modest 39% from the field in the first half, the Wildcats shot an impressive 52% from the field. Instead of settling for threes, which the ’Cats took 16 of in the first half, Villanova only took five threes after halftime.
Despite shooting 38% from downtown on the evening, Villanova’s ability to get high percentage shots in the lane and get fouled was very important. After taking only 8 foul shots in the first 20 minutes, Villanova got to the line 22 times in the second half. On the other hand, Marquette only got to the charity stripe 17 times all night. The ’Cats shot 45% from the field for the entire game.
Wednesday night’s loss dropped the Golden Eagles to 2-3 in conference play. Freshman guard Haanif Cheatham led the way for Marquette with 17 points. Standout freshman big man Henry Ellenson finished with 12 points, junior forward Luke Fischer added 11 points, and freshman guard Traci Carter poured in 10 points. Overall, Marquette shot 45% from the field and 32% from three on the night.
“It was a good, hard fought win tonight”, said Wright after the game. “The Big East is the Big East. Every game since has been a physical, grind it out battle. We’re not playing great, but we’re playing tough and playing together.”
Next up for the Wildcats are the Georgetown Hoyas (11-6 overall, 4-1 in Big East) this Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C. Tip-off at the Verizon Center is scheduled for 1:00 and can be seen on CBS.