Wildcats fend off feisty Golden Eagles



Eugene Rapay

Villanova downed the Marquette Golden Eagles on Wednesday night, beating them 83-68, but it wasn’t easy.

The Wildcats pulled away in the second half, thanks to a scoreless drought by the Golden Eagles that lasted for just under nine minutes. During this stretch, Villanova was able to take control of the game and hold onto it.

“Marquette wouldn’t go away,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “We jumped at them early, but they just kept coming at it.”

From opening tip-off, it looked like the Wildcats were going to easily coast to victory. The Wildcats, who had only made four 3-pointers in each of their last two games, quickly eclipsed that mark in the beginning of the game.

They built a quick 18-4 lead to start behind the hot shooting hands of the ‘Cats. They found much success from beyond the arc.

However, Villanova cooled off and struggled to sink baskets. Despite sinking seven threes, the Wildcats shot a subpar 12-of-31 (38.7%) overall in the first half.

Meanwhile, Marquette started chipping away at Villanova’s lead. The Golden Eagles found much success attacking the basket. They shot a rather efficient 16-for-26 (61.5%) on the floor in the first half, a stark contrast to Villanova’s shooting performance.

They were eventually able to erase the large deficit and even take a one-point lead going into the break.

“Good teams are not going to quit,” Wright said of Marquette. “They have beaten a lot of good teams. It’s very difficult. I think they are a really well-rounded team.”

Although the game remained close coming out of the intermission, with both teams trading baskets, both teams went through some role reversal.

The Wildcats began to take over behind their veteran leadership, outscoring the Golden Eagles 22-4 over an eight-minute span. 

“My teammates did a good job of creating offense,” Jenkins said. “During that stretch, I was just being at the right place at the right time and scoring. I was trying to be objective.”

Kris Jenkins contributed all seven of his second half points during the run. He had one of his best performances of this season, scoring a game-high 20 points. He was 6-of-12 on the floor and 3-of-6 from long range.

Just like how the Wildcats faced a shooting drought, the Golden Eagles faced one of their own.

Duane Wilson finally put an end to the slump with a three-pointer with 3:58 left in the game. Marquette hadn’t seen a basket since Luke Fischer dunked it with over 12 and a half minutes to go.

“You can’t have lulls offensively and defensively against a team like Villanova,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said.

The slump was Marquette’s death knell and a blessing for the ‘Cats.

The Golden Eagles didn’t go away quietly, cutting Villanova’s lead down to nine but couldn’t overcome it. The Wildcats built upon their lead and avoided the scare.

Villanova found much success of its second half success by attacking the basket. 20 of the team’s 25 shot attempts in the second half came from inside the arc.

The Wildcats shot 13-of-25 (52.0%) on the floor in the second half, much improved from what they did earlier in the game.

Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles were restricted to just 8-of-27 (29.6%) shooting in the second half.

“I’m proud of our guys fighting through it,” Wright said. “We’re not playing great, but we’re playing together, and we’re playing tough.”

Aside from Jenkins, the ‘Cats also saw double digit scoring performances from Jalen Brunson (14), Ryan Arcidiacono (12), Josh Hart (10), and Phil Booth (10).

Daniel Ochefu was kept at bay by Marquette’s front court tandem of Luke Fischer and Henry Ellenson, scoring only four points. However, he was able to win on the glass, notching a game-high 13 rebounds.

He briefly left the game in the second half with what appeared to be a hip or lower back injury. He reentered the game, but it was apparent that he was still affected by it.

As for Marquette, Haanif Cheatham contributed a team-high 17 points. Henry Ellenson had 12 points and eight rebounds. Luke Fischer added 11 points.

Freshman Traci Carter chipped in 10 points, five assists, and three rebounds before being ejected with 1:03 remaining in the game. He received his second technical foul after kicking Arcidiacono in the face while scrambling for a loose ball.

Villanova improves to 15-2 overall and 5-0 in Big East play. This game marks the team’s 20th straight win in conference play going back to last season.

“It’s one game at a time,” Wright said. “What is happening is teams are getting really fired up to play against us. Marquette brought it. Teams have been coming here and giving us their best. I think our guys realize that. They are responding, but I still think we have a lot to learn.”