No. 3 Villanova bounces back against Marquette, 93-81



David Jarman

Villanova bounced back from their loss last Wednesday against Butler by defeating the Marquette 93-81. Kris Jenkins led all scorers with 23 points, and Josh Hart responded from his eight-point performance against Butler with nineteen points and seven assists against the Golden Eagles.

The Wildcats once again showed why they are a threat to be reckoned with when it comes to shooting behind the arc. The team finished the game with 14 three-pointers, with eight of them coming in the second half. Villanova shot  61 percent from three-point range and 65 percent overall, a big improvement after shooting 37 percent from the field and 33 percent from the three in last Wednesday’s loss to Butler.

“After you lose a game at any time, you are always a little curious about how your team bounces back the next game,” Head Coach Jay Wright said. “What made us so good was our character. These guys can look at a loss and say, ‘we have to get better.’”

Particularly, Wright was impressed with his team’s three points shooting, but they need to do it on a consistent basis.

“When you have a night like that, you’re going to win a lot of games,” Wright said. “What we have to work on are the nights like against Butler when we are not making shots.”

In the first half Villanova came out aggressive as Jenkins hit a three to get the ‘Cats rolling on an 8-2 run in the opening minutes of the game.

“We knew coming into this game that Villanova was going to be really ready to play,” Marquette Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “That’s what championship level programs do. Usually when you play a program like Villanova coming off a loss you know they are going to be really ready.”

The Wildcats never let up the pressure on the Marquette defense. They came into this game planning to play to their strength, which is a balanced offense, and they succeeded in doing that. ‘Nova not only had six three-pointers in the first half, but also outscored the Eagles in the paint 16-8.

An acrobatic steal by Mikal Bridges that lead to an alley-oop to Donte DiVincenzo was one of the many highlight plays of the first half that ignited the home crowd at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, and kept Wojciechowski looking for answers to get his team to cut the deficit.

The Wildcats went into the half with an 11-point lead, which was almost cut to single digits before halftime due to Marquette’s freshman guard Markus Howard making 15 of his 21 total points in the first half. Markus’s performance was one of the few bright spots for the Golden Eagle offense in the first half, arguably the entire game.

“Marcus is a really good player and we ask a lot out of him,” Wojciechowski said. “The reason why we are asking a lot out of him is because we know he can do a lot. He makes shots, and he’s going to continue to figure out ways to impact the game.”

The start of the second half was ultimately the difference maker in the game. The Wildcats went on a 21-4 run in the opening minutes that led to Marquette playing catch-up for the rest of the game. In addition to Hart and Jenkins, point guard Jalen Brunson finished with 16 points and Bridges was able to get out of his recent scoring slump, finishing the night with 15 points including a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc. Bridges was held scoreless against Butler and only had 4 points against Creighton the past two games.

Villanova would go on another huge scoring run of over 20 points, establishing a 30-point lead with 7:07 left to play. DiVincenzo and Eric Paschall both left their impact on the game with a combined 14 points off the bench.

Overall, and the Wildcats were able to cruise to their fifteenth win of the season, showing no signs of the Butler game leaving a lasting impact on the team.

“I’m competitive, but you can’t dwell on it,” Hart said. “We had to give Butler all the credit. They played tough. Obviously the loss stung, but after that day we can’t dwell on it. We just had to put that behind us and keep moving forward.”

Even coach Wojciechowski noted Hart’s performance was a difference-maker in tonight’s contest.

“Hart responded off a game that he said wasn’t his best like a national player of the year does,” Wojciechowski said. “I’ve been fortunate to be around a number of them. You’re not going to have a perfect season, but those games where you feel you haven’t played as well, you come back and play like you’re the best player in the country again. And that’s who he was tonight.”

One thing that the team hopes to fix going into next week is the turnover bug, as the team had 12 turnovers against Marquette, which isn’t a team known for having a stellar defense. Villanova will be put to the test when they face No. 16 Xavier Tuesday night. The last time these two teams played each other, the Musketeers dethroned the Wildcats from the No. 1 ranking last February.

Tip-off between these two Big-East foes begins at 7 pm on Fox-Sports 1.