‘Cats continue roll with sixth-straight win

David Cassilo

When Villanova and Marquette squared off to open up their Big East seasons on Jan. 1, the Golden Eagles took the victory and extended what would eventually become a 12-game winning streak.

With the 102-84 victory for the Wildcats in its rematch Tuesday night, Villanova extended two streaks of its own. The win was their sixth consecutive victory and 26th straight at the Pavilion.

The first half set the tone for the game as both teams got going early offensively. The two teams had seven lead changes and eight ties in the game’s first 20 minutes.

While back and forth for most of the half, at the 7:08 mark, it looked like Marquette had seized control. On senior guard Dominic James’ jump shot, the Golden Eagles took what would prove to be their biggest lead of the game at nine points.

However, the Wildcats were able to respond quickly as they went on a 7-0 run following the James’ basket. For the rest of the game, the lead never got bigger than three for Marquette.

A few minutes later, sophomore guard Corey Fisher connected on a 3-point shot to give Villanova a 48-45 lead. It wase a lead that they never relinquished.

When the first half finally came to a close, Villanova had extended that lead to 50-45, despite the Golden Eagles shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 53.3 from beyond the arc. Villanova was able to shoot well, as it finished the first half at 50 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc.

At the break, Fisher led the Wildcats with 14 points. Junior guard Scottie Reynolds pitched in 11 points, while senior forward Dwayne Anderson had 10 of his own.

For Marquette, one of the major reasons for its first-half success was the play of junior forward Lazar Hayward, who had 13 at the break. James also performed well with 10 points and five assists over the first 20 minutes.

With so many lead changes in the first half, a tight battle was expected after halftime. However, Villanova came out strong and dominated the remainder of the game, shooting 72 percent in the second half.

Despite their success, the Wildcats got a bad omen as the half began. Just 29 seconds into the second half, Anderson went down with an injury and was forced to the bench for the remainder of the contest. In the post game press conference, Head Coach Jay Wright said that the injury was to Anderson’s knee and was either a sprain or a hyperextension.

Even with Anderson’s injury, it became evident that Villanova could survive without its senior starter. Over the course of the second half, the Villanova lead was never smaller than five points.

That lead grew and reached its maximum at 18 points, when Fisher sank a free throw with 41 seconds remaining. The foul shot extended the lead to 102-84, which would be the final score.

The 102 points marked the second-consecutive game that Villanova finished with that total, and the third-straight in which they reached at least 94. It is the first time the Wildcats have scored at least 90 in three-straight Big East games.

“Sometimes you just got to outscore people,” Wright said. “We don’t mind playing that way. We like it.”

The biggest piece of that scoring came from Reynolds, who finished the game with 27 points, including 16 in the second half. Following the game, the junior guard acknowledged how important a victory like this was to the team.

“We’ve been taking big steps and I just think this was another one of those steps,” Reynolds said.

Along with Reynolds, fellow backcourt-mate Fisher also filled up the stat sheet with 21 points of his own. His performance was one of the major reasons why the Villanova bench outscored Marquette’s 32-7. With Anderson possibly sidelined, Fisher may use his recent string of success to gain a starting job in his absence.

Senior forward Shane Clark also stepped up for the Wildcats, finishing with 16 points, his second-straight game with double figures. Two other Wildcats also reached at least 10 points, as senior forward Dante Cunningham finished with 15 points and Anderson had his halftime total of 10.

Despite suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season, there was one bright spot for the Golden Eagles. Senior guard Jerel McNeal’s 23 points landed him the top spot on Marquette’s all-time scoring list with 1,776 points, passing George Thompson, who finished his career with 1,773 points. Thompson played for the Golden Eagles from ’66-’69.

Hayward also did his best to keep his team in the game, finishing with 22 points and nine rebounds. The 22 points were three shy of his career-high he set against Providence on Jan.17.

With the win, Villanova has now won 26-straight games at the Pavilion. It was the 10th time two ranked teams have faced off there, with Villanova now 8-2 in those games and 6-1 under Wright. Since 1988, they have only lost one game versus a ranked opponent at the Pavilion.

The victory was also the team’s sixth-straight, its longest streak in Big East games since it won 11 in a row during the 2006 season.

The Wildcats will try for their seventh-consecutive victory when they travel to Morgantown, W.Va., where they have not won since 1999. Tip-off against the West Virginia Mountaineers is scheduled for Friday at 9 p.m.