Marquette battles in loss to No. 1 Villanova
PHILADELPHIA — Villanova’s new T-shirt cannon that it hyped on social media was a dud.
The first couple of shots fizzled and shirts plopped to the ground before the machine malfunctioned and the tees had to be manually tossed to the crowd. The Nova cannon was even booed as it was rolled off the court.
Good thing for the Wildcats their offense never sputtered. Kris Jenkins, Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson were nearly flawless on their deep shots, and No. 1 Villanova returned to form with a 93-81 win over Marquette on Saturday night.
The Wildcats (15-1, 3-1 Big East) bounced back from their first loss of the season at Butler and still have not lost two straight games since 2013.
“After you lose a game at any time, you’re always a little curious about how your team comes back,” coach Jay Wright said. “But I wouldn’t say I’m worried.”
Wright had little reason to worry, especially with a veteran championship roster quickly putting the rare defeat behind them with each lead-stretching 3-pointer. The Wildcats made 14 3s (just 15 free throws) in likely their last game at No. 1.
Jenkins made six 3s and scored 23 points, Hart scored 19, and Brunson (16 points) and Mikal Bridges (15 points) both made 3 of 3.
The Wildcats fell to 14-1 with their 66-58 loss at Butler, ending their 20-game winning streak going back to last season’s NCAA title.
“We didn’t have a good feeling coming out of that game,” Hart said. “Not just because we lost, but how played.”
Villanova played for the first time at the Wells Fargo Center with a national championship banner hanging in the rafters. Jenkins, the title game standout, Hart and Brunson all made the Wildcats look quite capable of winning back-to-back titles.
Markus Howard led the Golden Eagles (10-5, 1-2) with 21 points.
“I don’t think our guys competed,” coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “That’s not a good thing to be against Villanova. It’s my responsibility. It’s frustrating I haven’t done a better job getting them to understand what ‘competitive’ is.”
The Golden Eagles made five of their first nine 3-pointers to hang around for a half before the Wildcats blew the game open. Brunson hit a 3 off an assist from Jenkins; Jenkins followed with a 3 off an assist from Brunson for a 17-point lead.
Villanova will likely lose the top spot in the AP Top 25 poll to Baylor. The Wildcats proved that even with a loss, the road to a Big East crown still goes through the best basketball team in Philly.
Marquette: Wojciechowski was whistled for a technical late in the first half. He had good reason to be fired up: Marquette was just 2 for 2 from the free-throw line in the half. If the Wildcats are the Big East measuring stick, Marquette again failed a big test and lost to them for the ninth straight game. Marquette hasn’t defeated Villanova since Jan. 28, 2012. Marquette’s career record against top-ranked teams fell to 1-10.
Villanova: The Wildcats have not dropped consecutive games since they lost a Big East tourney game and their first NCAA Tournament game in 2013. The loss to Butler was just a minor bump for a program looking for a fourth straight Big East championship. But a game with No. 16 Xavier on Tuesday looms for the Wildcats and the Musketeers could give them fits.
The Wildcats had seven players score after just five did against the Bulldogs. The Wildcats are only seven deep and three starters played at least 32 minutes in a blowout victory. Phil Booth, a key standout during the title run, has been sidelined most of the season with a bad left knee. Wright said he’s not yet concerned about depth issues. “It’s not (a concern) because of the versatility of everybody,” he said.
The Wildcats made 61 percent of their 3s (14 of 23) and shot 65 percent overall from the floor (32 of 49). It was pretty easy for Wojciechowski to explain went wrong for Marquette.
“They made pretty much every shot, so that was pretty challenging,” he said.
Marquette returns home to play Seton Hall on Wednesday.
The Musketeers split their series with Villanova last season, with each team winning at home.