Coming off his worst loss at Villanova, coach Jay Wright isn’t overly worried. He is, however, out to make sure his team bounces back as it opens a tough three-game road swing Saturday against Marquette.
The fourth-ranked Wildcats (16-2, 5-1 Big East) were overwhelmed by Creighton’s 3-point shooting in a 96-68 pounding at home Monday night. Villanova trailed by as many as 41 points and failed to contain Ethan Wragge, who hit his first seven shots from beyond the arc and 9 of 14 overall as the Bluejays shot 60.0 percent (21 for 35) from 3-point range and 56.9 percent (33 for 58) overall.
Wright had never absorbed a loss like that in his 13 seasons at Villanova, but he also thinks his team has the proper mindset to regroup and leave it behind.
"I’ve probably never been a part of a game like that where I didn’t feel concerned about our team after the game," he told the school’s official website Thursday. "They came back with a great attitude. It’s a really unique group that way. It was business as usual even with a new attention to detail.
"We win together and we lose together. I’m not just saying this – it’s a really special group that way."
James Bell had 19 points for the Wildcats, giving Wright hope his senior guard is rediscovering his early season form. Bell, the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, has averaged 10.9 points on 38.3 percent shooting over his last nine games after averaging 17.6 and shooting 44.6 percent in the first nine.
Villanova will also play at Georgetown on Monday before completing its trek next Saturday against Big 5 and Philadelphia-area rival Temple.
While the Wildcats are second-to-last in the Big East in defensive 3-point percentage (36.2), Marquette is at the bottom of the 10-team conference in 3-point shooting at 30.4 percent, and its 90 makes are better than only St. John’s (89).
The Golden Eagles (11-8, 3-3) split their two-game road swing with an 80-72 overtime victory against Georgetown on Monday, rallying from a seven-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation as Davante Gardner had 20 points and freshman John Dawson added seven of his 12 in the extra period.
The Golden Eagles carry a 20-game home conference winning streak into this contest, but of bigger concern is needing a marquee victory to boost their NCAA tournament chances. They lack a signature non-conference victory after suffering losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin, San Diego State and New Mexico – who have a combined 63-12 record – and know what’s at stake to reach the NCAA tournament for a sixth straight season.
"Definitely, coach Buzz (Williams) talked about it this morning. We haven’t lost at the Bradley Center," senior forward Jamil Wilson said Friday about the opportunity for Marquette. "Any game can be pivotal."
Villanova has won six of the last nine meetings, including a 60-56 victory at home last season. Marquette has beaten the Wildcats three times in four games at the Bradley Center since joining the Big East in 2005, and the last eight overall matchups have been decided by five or fewer points.