MBB: Cold snap dooms ‘Cats



Tim Richer

After a loss against Georgetown last weekend, Villanova was looking for a much-needed win against Marquette. Unfortunately, the Wildcats traveled home from Milwaukee, Wis., with another loss in the books, falling 80-67. The Wildcats record now stands at 18-9, 6-7 in the Big East.

The first half proved the game was going to be tight, with each team exhibiting a strong showing. The Wildcats led most of the half; however, Marquette kept it close by tying the game six different times. Villanova increased its lead to as many as nine points, but, by the end of the half, the Golden Eagles were able to come back from the nine point deficit to tie the score at 33-33 at the end the half .

For Marquette (22-7, 9-5 Big East), the win was crucial in breaking a three-game losing streak that dropped it from second place in the conference to a tie for fourth.

Scottie Reynolds led the Wildcats with 16 points in the first half, shooting 4-for-7 from the 3-point line. During a five-minute stretch in the middle of the first half, ‘Nova’s freshman guard scored 14 of the Wildcats’ 16 points, putting them up 26-17. Reynolds finished the contest with a game-high 25 points.

“If there’s a better freshman guard in the country, I’m not sure who it is,” said Tom Crean, Marquette head coach, on Reynolds’ play.

Marquette was able to finish the last seven minutes of the first half by going on a 14-5 run to close the gap going into halftime.

The second half looked as if it were going to be as close as the first; Marquette was able to gain its first lead of the half with a little over 18 minutes left in the game. The score was tied at 41 with a little over 15 minutes to go in the game. The Wildcats were never able to match the Golden Eagles score for the remainder of the game.

A 9-0 run by Marquette late in the second half gave it an edge over the Wildcats. Marquette continued to increase its lead throughout the second half to double-digits, and Villanova never recovered from the deficit.

“We just go through droughts where we can’t score,” said Wildcats Head Coach Jay Wright. “We just struggle … It just becomes too many droughts in a game. And we just can’t get out of it.”

With over two minutes remaining in the game, Curtis Sumpter missed an open 3-point attempt that would have put ‘Nova within three points. Marquette never looked back. With ‘Nova forced to foul in order to get the ball back, Marquette increased their lead to 13, converting 12-of-12 free throws with around two minutes remaining in the game.

The final stretch completed the Golden Eagles’ game-long dominance at the foul line; they shot 31-for-35, good for over 88 percent.

Lazar Hayward, freshman forward, led Marquette with a career-high 18 points. The Golden Eagles sophomore-trio of guards also came up big; Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews combined for 49 points in the winning effort.

Sumpter finished the game with 14 points for the Wildcats, three below his season average. Sumpter and Shane Clark led the team in rebounds, both recording five each.

The ‘Cats out-shot Marquette in the first half, shooting 41.4 percent. However, in the second half, the tables turned as the Wildcats shot an abysmal 31.6 percent. The Golden Eagles were able to capitalize on this by shooting over 46 percent in the deciding half.

Scoring droughts have been a consistent part of the team’s offensive output (or, at times, lack thereof) this season. The same problem plagued the ‘Cats earlier in the week when they hosted Georgetown at the Wachovia Center. ‘Nova shot just 8-of-26 (31 percent) in the second half and fell victim to the stifling Hoyas defense in the game’s closing stages. After Reynolds hit a 3 to increase Villanova’s slim lead to four, the offense failed to score in the game’s final 3:40, and Villanova lost the game by three. The offense even committed two shot-clock violations in the final three possessions of the game. When they did get shots off, the Wildcats missed some open looks that cost Villanova what would have been a crucial win for their tournament profile.

Villanova looks to break its two-game skid as it hosts the struggling Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the Pavilion this Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats will be honoring their senior players before the game.