Things didn't look promising for YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles coming into today's clash with the 6th-ranked, twice-beaten Wildcats of Villanova. MU had lost 8 of its last 9 games and is running on fumes, while the 'Cats had won 7 in a row after getting decleated by Georgetown on January 19. To make matters worse, Matt Carlino was again held out of action following his scary tumble against VU 17 days ago, and to make matters worser, Juan Anderson couldn't go after badly twisting his ankle in practice on Thursday.
That left MU with just six available scholarship players and pressed Sandy Cohen III into duty at forward, and this one had all the earmarks of a 35-point drubbing and a dud of a National Marquette Day. But outgunned and outmanned and out-everythinged that they were, Derrick Wilson, Duane Wilson, Luke Fischer, Jajuan Johnson, Steve Taylor and Cohen kept swinging with the mighty Wildcats until the final whistle, dropping an 87-76 decision that was a hell of a lot more respectable than the score might indicate.
The first half got off to a much more aesthetically-pleasing start compared to the last meeting between MU and 'Nova, which, you'll recall, was a brick and turnover fest of the highest order. Today, on the other hand, both teams came out hot, as Cohen, Du. Wilson, and Johnson each hit 3s for Marquette while Dylan Ennis put up a quick 5 and Darrun Hilliard tallied 6 for VU. Luke Fischer hit a free throw to break a 13-13 tie, but JayVaughn Pinkston scored 6 straight for the 'Cats and then got a generous bounce on a jumper to give 'Nova a 4-point cushion at the under-8 timeout. After an obligatory double tech on Duane Wilson and Daniel Ochefu -- because Pat Driscoll was in the house, because of course he was -- Villanova blew up for a 12-0 run, and at the half it was 43-34 'Cats.
Marquette had every reason to pack things in and quit in the second half, especially after Ryan Arcidiacono canned three 3-pointers in the first two minutes of action and Villanova's lead was 16. But YOUR irrepressible Golden Eagles never let things get completely out of hand, trimming the deficit to 10 on a handful of occasions and getting the margin to 9 on Du. Wilson's triple with 25 seconds left. Johnson and Fischer both came up with big efforts in the second half: Jajuan hit two 3-pointers and had 10 points on his way to an impressive 20-point, 5-assist performance, and Fisch notched 12 points in the second half and finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
With the win, Villanova continues its quest for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament with its glittering 25-2 overall, 12-2 conference record. Marquette, meanwhile, drops to 11-15 overall and 3-11 in the Big East, but I'm giving this one an asterisk because of an incredibly gutsy performance from a group of kids who, by every indication, should've had their teeth kicked in.
Until Butler, then, this is your post-game A-for-effort thread.