Opportunity Lost: #4/5 Villanova 94, Marquette 85

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Another big win within reach. Another disappointing loss.

We're running out of creative ways to tell this tale.

Saturday afternoon, in a BIG spot, with a chance to finally get a win over a quality opponent, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles once again fell behind early, mounted a furious comeback late, only to fall short and let the opportunity slip through their fingers.  This time, the opponent was the #4 ranked Villanova Wildcats.

Nova came out guns blazing in the first half.  They rained down 3-pointers from all over the floor.  Led by James Bell and Darrun Hilliard, they drained seven triples in the first 20 minutes.  Marquette leaned heavily on Davante Gardner, as they would all game, in order to get to the break only down by seven.  It was not the start that the 16,000-plus in attendance were hoping to see, but if we were all being honest it was probably the start that we expected.

In the second half, the MU defense stiffened slightly and the Wildcats 3-point shooting cooled off significantly.  Villanova also helped the Golden Eagles' cause with a few sloppy turnovers early in the half and by the 14 minute mark, the lead had been trimmed down to just one.

But for every Marquette run, Villanova had an answer.  After MU got within one, Nova got rolling again and pushed the margin back to nine.  Then MU rallied back to within four and Nova pushed the lead back out to 11 - capping the run with a Jayvaughn Pinkston dunk, with 5 minutes to play, that looked to be the death knell for any realistic hope of a Marquette victory.

But our guys still kept coming.  With 1:30 to play, Marquette had whittled the lead back down to just four.  A Ryan Arcidiacano free throw pushed the lead back out to six, with less than a minute to play.  It was going to take a miracle, and some Villanova misses from the charity stripe, if there was going to be any hope of pulling this one out.

As luck would have it, James Bell provided the missed throws.  And Todd Mayo once again provided the miracle.  Mayo erupted for 10 points in the last 35 seconds of regulation.  The biggest shot was a ridiculous, playground style, step back 3-pointer that he hit from the right corner, to get the deficit down to just one, with 14 seconds to play.  Then, after a pair of Arcidiacano free throws, Todd attempted to repeat his heroics from Monday night, but was fouled on the 3-point attempt.  He went to line and calmly sank all three free throws, to tie the game at 77 all.  And after a last second layup by Tony Chennault was waved off due to a (highly questionable) offensive foul call, we were headed to overtime with a chance to steal a victory!

But alas, it was not to be... again.  Villanova scored layups on each of their first four possessions in the extra frame, extended the lead back to seven, and had staved off another Marquette run.

Notes:

  • Marquette was behind for nearly the entire game. They never led, and were tied for just 1:39 (1:21 at 0-0, and 18 seconds at 77-77).
  • After a breakout performance Monday night at Georgetown, we didn't see much of John Dawson on Saturday. The freshman PG played just eight minutes, and scored three points on 1-4 shooting. I assume the reasoning for that was Buzz felt that Derrick was the better option to try to check Arcidiacano defensively.
  • Speaking of which... It really felt like Arcidiacano was doing whatever he wanted on the floor. The sophomore point guard was highly impressive, especially in the second half. He was setting up easy looks for his teammates, draining shots of his own, and taking care of the ball. He ended up with 20 points, 11 assists and zero turnovers. That is what point guard play is supposed to look like.
  • Jake Thomas played 30 minutes, took 2 shots, missed both, had 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 turnovers. Ummmm... yeah.
  • During the game I was railing on about offensive rebounds and second chance points. I thought Villanova had to be dominating that stat, and that was a huge reason that things were going so poorly. I was wrong. Offensive rebound numbers were dead even, and the 2nd chance points actually favored Marquette. But when you're trying to come from behind, and stops are as scarce as they were on Saturday, every second opportunity given up is magnified and feels so much more significant.
  • MU shot 50% from the field, only turned it over 9 times, and lost... at home. And that 50% includes the 2-10 bottoming out in OT. The regulation number is over 55%... and we LOST.... At HOME.
  • With another chance for a quality win flushed, there are now five games remaining against teams with a top 50 RPI: Providence, Xavier, Creighton, @ Nova, @ Providence. If you're one of the few people that still want to believe this season can be saved, how many of those five games do we have to have? I say four, at least. And there's no room for any missteps.

Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: Mayo's outburst in the final minute may have been what forced OT, but he would've never gotten the chance if Davante Gardner hadn't done the bulk of the heavy lifting.  For whatever reason, Jay Wright decided that they were not interested in double teaming the big fella in the post.  He responded by abusing whoever dared try to guard him one on one.  He led MU with 29 points and 13 boards, and chipped a pair of assists for good measure.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Mayo made the shots in the clutch, Davante put up the gaudy numbers, and Jamil Wilson contributed a well rounded line of 16 points, 9 rebounds 7 assists, and just 1 turnover.  And, most impressively, Jamil was able to navigate the entire first half without committing a foul!  Unfortunately he ended up fouling out in the first minute of the OT, after being forced to give a few away while playing foul and chase at the end of regulation.

Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: It's hard to go against Mayo's insane step back trey in the waning seconds of regulation.  Check that, it's impossible.

Up Next: Rev. Ed Cooley and the resurgent Providence Friars visit the Bradley Center, this Thursday night.  Start time is 6:00 CST, so clear the work calendar of anything after 4:00 to make sure you don't miss tip.  We'll see you there!

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