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Coming Up Small: #6 Villanova 73, Marquette 56

In the season's last opportunity to score a marquee victory, Marquette fails to show up.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Well at least we don't have to hear about Marquette's "bubble chances," or its "tournament resume," or "being in position to be in position," or any of that anymore.

If MU really wanted to make a last gasp run at playing their way back into the NCAA Tournament conversation, they HAD to win a tough road game at Villanova this past Sunday. But instead of rising to the occasion, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles fell oh so flat and got run out of the gym by a Wildcats team that was better in every facet of the game. Thus confirming what we all knew, but just didn't want to admit - none of that Tourney nonsense was ever really going to happen.

This game started much the same way as the last meeting between these two squads - with Nova draining 3s. This time it was Darrun Hilliard doing the early damage, rather than James Bell. Hilliard, who hit four triples and scored 20 in the January game, paced the Wildcats in this one. He hit five treys in total, and scored a career high 26 points. And you could tell from the beginning, it was going to be that kind of day.

Marquette was able to hang around for bit. They kept Villanova within 4-6 points for the first 10 minutes or so, but then the 'Cats began to pull away. With Hilliard leading the way, the lead expanded from 4 to 8 and you could feel it beginning to get out of hand. MU tried to reel it back in, and got within 3 on a Davante Gardner stick back, plus a foul. But another Nova triple pushed the advantage right back to 6.

It appeared that the teams would trade baskets, and Nova would take that 6-point margin to the locker room for halftime. But in the last possession before the half, things took a gigantic turn for MU. With 37 seconds left on the clock, Jake Thomas dove on the floor for a loose ball (one of the few loose balls that MU actually got to), and after securing the ball, he attempted to call timeout before sliding out of bounds. But the official standing right over the play, decided not to award the TO and called it out of bounds, Villanova ball. You be the judge:

Buzz had also been trying to call time, and when the whistle blew he ran to the spot of the play, adamantly demonstrating that he had called timeout and that this should be a time out. For his efforts he was tagged with a technical foul. Now, Villanova not only got the ball for the final possession of the half, but they got 2 free throws as well. And if you had to guess what they did with that final possession, and you said "Hilliard 3-Ball" you would be correct! Darrun scored the last of his 18 first half points, with less than a second on the clock, and completely snuffed out any momentum or confidence that MU might have taken into the half.

Then the second half happened. Marquette started the half down by 11, and they would never get any closer. Ryan Arcidiacono, who sat a good portion of the first half with fouls, opened things up with 3-ball. Hilliard followed with another. Kris Jenkins followed with another. A quick 9-2 run put Nova up 18, and the rout was on. MU fails spectacularly in its last chance at a quality win, 73-56.

Random Thoughts:

  • Jamil Wilson led the parade of disappointment once again. His 5 point performance was, unfortunately, not terribly surprising. Jamil has scored in single digits 9 times this season. We'll toss out Samford, where he only played 5 minutes. But the other 7 games prior to tonight are: Ohio St, New Hampshire, George Washington, San Diego St, @Xavier, @St John's, Georgetown. With the exception of the Wisconsin game, Jamil has been largely MIA in most of this season's biggest games.
  • After abusing the Georgetown front line on Thursday, Davante Gardner was bottled up by Villanova on Sunday. The big man scored just 8 points on 3-6 shooting.
  • Similarly, Jake Thomas came crashing back to Earth in this game. After his 22-point explosion against the Hoyas, Jake made just 1 of 7 triples, and shot just 2-8 overall.
  • Terrifying stat of the game: Gardner did not attempt a FG in the second half. Just mull that over for a bit.
  • Almost as terrifying: James Bell, who absolutely torched Marquette back in January, scored zero points, on 0-3 shooting.... and we still lost by 17.
  • Doubly terrifying: Marquette hasn't been faced with the reality that they would not be making the NCAA Tournament probably since this happened. Those were some dark days.
  • In two meetings this season, Villanova has made 22 three pointers. Marquette has made six.
  • If there is anyone that tries to tell you that we lost because of that goofy timeout/no timeout, technical foul situation, tell them to go pound sand.
  • I'm generally not one to question a team's effort. But seeing Villanova beat us to nearly every loose ball, contested rebound, etc. it's kind of hard not to. It was maddening to watch, especially knowing that this was essentially an elimination game.
  • The only way into the Big Dance from here is to win the Big East Tourney. And I'm fairly certain that the planetary alignment that would be required for MU to beat Creighton and Villanova on back to back nights would be enough to rip a hole in the universe.

Jae Crowder Player of the Game: Deonte Burton seems to keep popping up here in games where MU gets housed. And so it is again. Deonte got to go to work in the second half in the situation that seems to suit him best: "We don't care what else you do, just get some buckets." And the young man did just that. He scored 13 points on 5-7 shooting, all in the second half. He also notched 4 steals while he was out there. Burton and Todd Mayo led Marquette's only noticeable spurt of the second half - which was barely enough to make the fans look up from their Twitter feeds for a brief moment, but it was something.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I'm giving the Fulce to Chris Otule, because I'm pretty sure the one person that you can't blame this debacle on, is Big Chris.

Davante "Big Smoove Gardner" Smooth Play of the Game: Hey, remember JaJuan Johnson? Well he actually got on the floor in this game. And while he was out there he managed to hit a 3-pointer. So, since there really aren't any other viable contenders from this travishamockery, I'm giving the nod to TreyJay's garbage time triple.

Up Next: Marquette continues to try to take the rest of the Big East bubble teams down with them, as they visit Providence. The Friars - as well as MU's next opponent, St. John's - are currently living on the very edge of the bubble. Nearly every bracket prediction type has both teams among the last teams in/first teams out. Which puts the Golden Eagles in the unique position of being able to say "If we're not going to the Dance, then neither are you!" Tip time is Tuesday, at 8:00 CST. See you all in the Game Thread!