Villanova secured their eighth victory of the season, third in Big East play, and sixth in a row with their 85-68 win over the Marquette Golden Eagles. Collin Gillespie led the way with 22 points, four assists, and no turnovers. Five Wildcats scored in double digits, including Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who played with a broken nose but still tallied 17 points. Junior Brandon Slater scored 10 points off the bench, attacking with heightened aggression en route to his second-highest career outing. Jamal Cain featured for the Golden Eagles with 15 points and seven rebounds on an efficient 54.54% (6-11) from the field.
Villanova has followed their only loss of the season with convincing performances, including three straight wins of at least 13 points in the three games before their matchup in Milwaukee. Historically, Marquette has caused problems for Villanova, especially at the Fiserv Forum. Having beaten the ‘Cats last year, the Golden Eagles hold a 7-5 record against Villanova since the 2005-06 season. This year, Marquette faced the impossible task of filling a Markus Howard-size hole in their team. With two wins over top 10 opponents this season, Marquette posed a threat to Villanova’s spot at the top of the Big East.
The two teams battled during the first half, with neither team taking control of the game. Villanova struggled to adjust early as Justin Moore air-balled his first shot while Marquette jumped to a 16-11 lead on three quick shots from deep. Gillespie caught fire in the first seven minutes, with three 3s of his own to keep Villanova in it. Theo John provided Robinson-Earl a difficult matchup in the post on both sides of the ball as neither player helped their team stretch a lead in the first half.
Villanova finished the half with a 36-30 lead on the back of their three starting guards. The ‘Cats forced nine turnovers from Marquette in the first half, turning that into 10 points on the other end of the court. The Golden Eagles had trouble converting free throws, with only one of their five in the first half, leading to difficulties in the first 20 minutes.
Villanova exploded out of the locker room with a 10-1 scoring run to create a 46-34 lead, eclipsing the largest gap in the first half. Jay Wright’s motion offense and some hot shooting caused havoc for Marquette’s defense. On the other end, the Golden Eagles continued to struggle from the charity stripe, finishing at an abysmal 43.8% (7-16). The Wildcats kept the pedal to the floor, scoring at ease against a porous Marquette defense. A Gillespie jumper extended the lead to 20 points with 10 minutes left in the game.
From then on, the Wildcats’ lead fluctuated around 20 until Marquette clawed back some garbage time buckets. As the final buzzer sounded in the empty arena, Villanova celebrated one of their most impressive performances of the season.
The Wildcats return to Big East play after the holidays with their next game scheduled away to Xavier on Saturday, January 2nd at 2:00.