The Villanova men’s basketball team lost its first Big East game of the 2018-19 season in a road contest against the Marquette Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon, 66-65.
Former Wildcat, and current Milwaukee Buck, Donte DiVincenzo was in attendance at a sold-out Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, WI for what could go down as the game of the year in the Big East.
Collin Gillespie opened the scoring with a quick three pointer for Villanova, but the Wildcats could not seem to knock down another three for the rest of the first half, finishing at 2-of-14 from beyond the arc after the first twenty minutes of play.
Marquette’s Markus Howard capitalized on Villanova’s lack of rhythm and momentum by going on a personal 8-0 run and reaching the Wildcats’ point total on his own by the midway point of the first half. Howard finished the half with a dazzling layup through four Villanova defenders, raising his point total to 21 before the break. The Wildcats’ struggles on offense and Howard’s incredible scoring ability highlighted a first half that ended in a 30-26 Golden Eagle lead.
After the break, Marquette seemed as though they would pull away, reaching a game-high lead of 15 points that was cut to 12 by the under-twelve-minute timeout. During this timeout, Wildcat head coach Jay Wright, told his players, “This is a great experience for us,” among other words of encouragement to keep his team in the game. These remarks seem to have worked, as the Wildcats went on a 10-0 run after the timeout, drilling multiple threes as they finally found their shooting stroke. Villanova took advantage of this momentum by forcing multiple turnovers and converting them into an Eric Paschall three and two Saddiq Bey free throws. The Wildcats finally overcame the 15-point deficit and regained the lead with six minutes left to play in the second half.
The two teams battled down the stretch, trading buckets on seemingly every possession. Markus Howard continued to dominate offensively for the Golden Eagles, while Phil Booth carried the load for the Wildcats late in the game. Booth’s penetration into the lane late in the second half allowed Villanova to get multiple open looks from three-point range, including a Paschall three with less than a minute left. Paschall’s shot ricocheted off the back of the rim to Jermaine Samuels, who was called for an over the back foul on what could have been a crucial second chance for the Wildcats.
The Golden Eagles, leading by one point, looked as though they would be able to get the last good look at the basket, until Saddiq Bey stole the ball from Markus Howard, which led to Villanova possession and a timeout. Out of the timeout, Phil Booth dribbled at the top of the key, waiting to attack the basket. Once a Collin Gillespie screen forced a switch of defenders, Booth drove into the lane, had a path to the basket, but found himself caught up on the baseline surrounded by two defenders. Booth had no choice but to pass the ball to Jermaine Samuels, who was not able to get a shot off in time.
This loss drops Villanova to 19-5 on the season and 10-1 in the Big East. The Wildcats’ lead over Marquette in the Big East now sits at one game.
In the end, Jay Wright remained optimistic over the result of the game. “I’m proud of our effort,” Wright said. “To lose a game like that you look at a lot of little things you could have done better. You’ve got to learn from it,”
The team will have a chance to learn from the loss and get back in the win column on Wednesday evening, when they take on the Providence Friars at the Finneran Pavilion at 6:30 p.m.