MILWAUKEE — Ever so close to a signature win, all Marquette left the BMO Harris Bradley Center floor with was another opportunity wasted as the pep band blared Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believing".
While it might not be time to completely stop believing just yet, the Golden Eagles are running out of chances. Marquette overcame an 11-point deficit to force overtime only to lay an egg in the extra session, falling 94-85 to No. 4 Villanova.
"They scored every possession (of overtime)," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "The only shot that they missed, (Ryan Arcidiacono) dove in the air four feet and landed on the ball and called timeout. Then it was their ball out of bounds and they scored again. They scored layups and free throws in that five-minute period.
"We did not get a stop in the last five minutes of the game and worked incredibly hard to get it to that point. I could be wrong, but I think Butler did the same thing to us last Saturday. So it could be when we play games on Saturday."
The Golden Eagles hadn’t lost a conference home game since March 2, 2011, a run of 20 straight. Saturday’s game had a similar feel of big home wins during that run, but the end result was something completely foreign.
Down 11 points with 4:53 left and nine with 2:33 to play in regulation, Marquette took advantage of five missed free throws by Villanova to close the second half on a 15-6 run. Todd Mayo scored 10 points in the final 34 seconds, including a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left.
Mayo was fouled while attempting a game-tying 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds to play and calmly knocked down all three free throws. Villanova guard Tony Chennault was able to get to the rim and score at the buzzer, but referee Michael Stephens called a charge despite Marquette forward Steve Taylor Jr. appearing to be in the restricted zone.
"I thought we were in a really good place," Williams said. "We hit really good shots to get us into overtime and then arguably the toughest play that’s been made at the Bradley Center this season was Steve taking the charge. I thought their mind space was good, their body language was really good. We fought really hard to get it (to overtime)."
Just as Marquette dominated right from the start of overtime Monday at Georgetown, Villanova scored five quick points and never looked back.
"I felt we had the momentum going into overtime," Mayo said. "We just couldn’t get a stop . . . It’s real tough. It’s disappointing."
Marquette’s magic number is usually 50 percent. Shoot that or better from the field and it usually means a victory. But the Golden Eagles shot 50 percent on the dot and lost, the first time that’s happened since losing to Washington in the 2010 NCAA tournament.
The offense finally wasn’t the problem. Davante Gardner, who finished with a career high 29 points and 13 rebounds, was unstoppable inside. Jamil Wilson put together his best offensive performance of the season, scoring 16 points with nine rebounds and seven assists before fouling out early in overtime.
Marquette isn’t going to play better offensively, but the game came down to just not being able to get stops. Arcidiacono scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half and overtime, while fellow guard James Bell added a career-high 30 points.
"We had a 12 percent turnover rate, 1.12 points per possession," Williams said. "Man, those are really good numbers. Their starting one, two and three had 70 points. Those are atrocious numbers."
Another squandered opportunity puts Marquette’s NCAA tournament hopes in a desperate state. Close, but not good enough has been the story of the season. This may have been the toughest of all of those close losses, however.
How will the Golden Eagles bounce back from being so close to knocking off a top-five team? They’ll have to get over Saturday’s loss in a hurry with a red-hot Providence team coming in on Thursday.
"We’ll see," Williams said. "We haven’t lost here in a long time. I thought our guys showed really good resiliency to get it to overtime. What I told them after the game was, ‘You played with great guts to get it to overtime. And then you never got it to overtime. Now we’re playing the hottest team in the league.’
"If you listen to the people that supposedly know, they are saying Providence is going to the NCAA tournament. They are just as talented as Villanova. They don’t play nine guys, but they are just as talented."