No. 1 Villanova looks to bounce back vs. Marquette

The top-ranked Villanova Wildcats will enter Saturday’s Big East matchup against Marquette in an unusual position.

For the first time since dropping last season’s Big East Tournament title game against Seton Hall, the Wildcats will take the court following the loss. When Villanova was ousted by the Pirates, it rallied to win all six games in the NCAA Tournament on its way to a national championship.

The Wildcats (14-1, 2-1) won 20 straight games overall before No. 18 Butler defeated them 66-58 Wednesday night at raucous Hinkle Fieldhouse. The task now is to rebound against a tough Marquette (10-4, 1-1) team Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, home of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s Flyers.

“In the Big East you have schools with basketball tradition that expect to win,” Villanova coach Jay Wright told reporters after the loss to Butler. “Everybody wins when we play out of conference. When they play, they expect to win. When they play at home, they really expect to win. I don’t think there’s a better basketball conference in the country. There’s a lot of great ones, but not one better. Wednesday night was a great example of that.”

This game will be the first of four matchups for the Wildcats at the Wells Fargo Center. Villanova is 13-2 in this arena since the start of the 2012-13 season.

For Villanova to rebound with a win, it will have to execute better on the offensive end. The Wildcats shot just 37.3 percent at Butler and scored only 58 points, both of which were season-lows.

Sophomore guard Jalen Brunson led the way with 23 points while preseason National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart was limited to 13 points.

“I think you credit Butler’s defense — they prevented us from getting the other guys involved,” Wright told reporters. “When you look at the results, it’s one thing. When you look at how it happened, they played really good team defense. I was very impressed.”

Villanova won eight straight meetings in this series, with Marquette’s last victory coming on Jan. 28, 2012.

Marquette is 1-9 all-time facing a top-ranked team with that win coming in the Elite Eight of the 2003 NCAA Tournament against Kentucky.

The Golden Eagles dropped a 69-66 decision in their most recent game Sunday at Seton Hall. Senior guard Katin Reinhardt hit five 3-pointers in the first half and scored a team-high 17 points. Markus Howard added 14 points in 25 minutes.

Marquette had won three in a row before the setback to Seton Hall.

“It was a very difficult loss,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We have a lot of guys hurting in the locker room because there were plays to be made and we were on the cusp of making them and we didn’t. So we have a lot of disappointed guys. In this league, you can’t throw pity parties. You’ve got to make the plays. If you don’t make the plays, then you’re going to get punished.”