‘Cats hope to conquer Marquette


Opponent Overall

As Villanova continues to push through its intensely competitive Big East schedule, the team will look to defend its streak of 25-straight wins at the Pavilion when the Marquette Golden Eagles visit on Feb. 10. Marquette is ranked No. 8 in the country and following its victory over No. 23 Georgetown last Saturday, it has a perfect 8-0 record in the Big East. The Wildcats will look to continue their recent success against ranked opponents after defeating Pittsburgh, while the Golden Eagles will attempt to put an end to Villanova’s home-winning streak.

Opponent Strengths

Marquette is an offensively focused team, and its ability to put points on the board has it leading the Big East in scoring offense with 81.6 points per game. They are also an experienced squad, starting four seniors (guards Jerel McNeal, Dominic James and Wesley Matthews and forward Dwight Burke) and one junior (forward Lazar Hayward). With McNeal and Matthews leading the team in scoring, each averaging over 19 ppg through last weekend, the Marquette starting five has been on the court to begin every game of this season together. This consistency has helped them amass a 19-2 record that is better than its preseason expectations.

Opponent Weaknesses

Though its high-scoring offense has saved them more often than not this season, Marquette is a small team that struggles both in terms of defense and rebounding. They also rank dead last in the Big East in shot blocking, so a game plan focused on getting Villanova’s leading scorer Dante Cunningham looks inside may treat the Wildcats well in the matchup. If players like Cunningham and Antonio Peña can generate offensive rebounding and inside scoring, the smaller Marquette team will be forced to foul – sending a Villanova team to the line that leads the conference in free-throw percentage.

Who to Watch

While McNeal and Matthews share the honor of overall leading scorer for the Golden Eagles, McNeal has gone above and beyond in Big East play. His average of 23.9 ppg against conference opponents was augmented by his 26-point, 11-assist performance against Georgetown on Saturday. While Marquette does get solid scoring production from other players, McNeal is the most important part of its offense, as he also leads the team in minutes played. Look for his play against Villanova to be a major factor in the game. If he plays like he did against Georgetown, Marquette may be a tough team to stop.

What to Watch For

As noted before, the play of Villanova big men such as Cunningham and Peña will be crucial to the team’s success against the smaller Golden Eagles. The matchup of the two teams is also an exciting one because it features Marquette, the highest-scoring team in the Big East, against one of the best defensive squads in the conference. Villanova has allowed opponents an average of only 61.3 points per game this season.

If the Wildcats can hold Marquette to significantly fewer points than it has become accustomed to scoring, look for the upset to push the Pavilion-winning streak to 26 games.

Villanova 70, Marquette 65