The Villanova Wildcats cruised to a 96-64 win over the Marquette Golden Eagles on Wednesday night, behind 27 points from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. All five Wildcat starters scored in double digits, as the ‘Cats improved their record to 13-2 (8-1 Big East).
The Wildcats put on an offensive clinic, scoring a season-high 96 points and shooting 63% from the field, including 59.1% from three.
“I think we share the ball as a team really well and we got guys who can all pass, shoot, and dribble. I think you saw tonight [Jeremiah Robinson-Earl] was hitting shots, guys were finding him and he was making the right decisions,” Collin Gillespie said after the win. “It can be really anybody on this team, it can be any guy on any given night.”
The Golden Eagles’ record dropped to 9-11 (5-9 Big East), despite a career high 28 points from freshman forward Dawson Garcia. Apart from guard DJ Carton’s 13 points, Garcia was the only offensive threat for Marquette, as the team struggled offensively and turned the ball over 16 times.
Both teams started out sloppy, swapping turnovers before baskets. Jermaine Samuels hit an early three to grab the lead as Marquette started 0-4 from the field, but the Golden Eagles roared back and the teams swapped the lead multiple times throughout the opening minutes. Marquette briefly led 9-8, but once the Wildcats regained the lead, Villanova grasped it for good.
Strong defense propelled the Wildcats to a 29-22 lead at Marquette’s first timeout, scoring seven early points off of turnovers. However, Garcia kept the Golden Eagles in the game with 11 points in the first fifteen minutes. Garcia and Carton combined for 23 points in the first half, but a buzzer beating Caleb Daniels three pointer ensured the ‘Cats went into the half up eight.
The second half started the same way the first ended, as a 12-2 Villanova run spanned both sides of the half. Suffocating Wildcat defense and ball movement on the offensive side allowed for open looks from three point range, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl capitalized to put the ‘Cats up 13. The Wildcat double digit lead was only briefly threatened throughout the rest of the game.
With more than fifteen minutes left in the game, the Wildcats looked set to pull away, as Justin Moore hit threes on back to back possessions for a 55-39 lead. However, the Golden Eagles clawed back, cutting the lead to nine before three triples from Robinson-Earl regained control for Villanova. Collin Gillespie hit another three to cap off another 12-2 scoring run, and it was smooth sailing for the remaining eight minutes.
“I think we did a great job driving and kicking out. It just kinda opened up and the guards made the right play, we made extra passes for open threes,” Robinson-Earl said of the team’s offensive success. He also talked about his mentality, despite his perfect 5-5 day from beyond the arc. “If you miss one, just keep shooting the ball like you’re gonna make the next one.”
The final five minutes were time for yet another Villanova run, coinciding with the long awaited return from injury of Bryan Antoine, as the Wildcats scored 12 straight to extend the lead to 31 points. The onslaught continued in the last minute, ending only at the final whistle, as the Wildcats emerged victors by the final score of 96-64.
Despite the rout, Gillespie believes there is still room to grow. “We go into every day with a growth mindset… we can get a lot better. I think we’ll be pretty good by the end.”
The #5 Wildcats return to action on Saturday, travelling to Nebraska to face the #19 Creighton Bluejays in a battle atop the Big East.