After dropping their first Big East game against Georgetown Friday night, the Marquette Golden Eagles came out strong against Villanova Sunday afternoon and earned a 67-57 victory. It was good to see MU bounce back after their worst performance of the year and look the better side for the majority of the game. With the win, they remain in sole possession of first place in the Big East with an 8-1 conference record and 14-6 overall.
You would think that the low-scoring affair would play right into the Wildcats’ gameplan. However, Marquette gave Villanova a taste of their own medicine with a strong defensive performance holding VU to 39.3% shooting from the field and 21.7% from behind the arc. That was something I’m sure MU coach Carolyn Kieger stressed to her team before the game because Nova’s 3-point shooting was a big reason for their victory over DePaul on Friday. MU also recorded 21 points off the 13 turnovers they forced, including 12 on eight turnovers in the first quarter alone, which also contributed to holding the Wildcats to just 57 points. It’s the second time all season MU has held its opponent under 60 points.
Marquette had an early 22-15 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Villanova made some runs throughout the game but Marquette did a good job of answering those with well-executed baskets of their own. Again, the MU defense deserves a lot of credit for really sealing off the paint and not allowing many clean looks in close. They forced the Wildcats to chuck up 23 threes of which they only hit five of them. Coach Kieger has got to be happy with the Golden Eagles’ defensive effort in this game. VU had just two players (Alexa Louin and Mary Gedaka) in double figures with 11 points each.
Erika Davenport led the way for MU with her sixth double-double of the season recording 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Allazia Blockton also had a strong 21 point performance to go along with her eight boards. The final player in double figures was Natisha Hiedeman who had 11 points and five rebounds. The only concern coming out of this game was the lack of production from their bench. By lack of production, I mean the MU bench scored zero points. ZE-RO. Now, it wasn’t really needed given how strong their defense played, but hopefully this isn’t an issue moving forward.
It wasn’t the most exciting game after the first 10 minutes, but Marquette did what they needed to do to get the win and re-assert their dominance at the top of the Big East. At the mid-way point of Big East play, the Golden Eagles have a one game lead on DePaul and hold the tie-breaker having beaten them earlier this year. It’s become a two-horse race for the regular season title because third place Villanova drops to 5-4 in conference play and is unlikely to gain the ground back with nine games left. A large part of Nova’s inability to get that ground back is due to the fact that both Marquette and DePaul would have to lose three or four games themselves and I don’t see that happening with how well both teams have played so far.
Up Next: Speaking of DePaul...Marquette will have a week off before playing them next Monday. The Blue Demons are 7-2 in conference play and 15-6 overall. DePaul’s coming off a comfortable 78-62 win over Georgetown after getting their tree shook by the Wildcats on Friday. This game will have big implications on who will end up as regular season champs. If Marquette wins, they will put themselves in great position with a two-game lead and the tiebreaker over DePaul with eight games remaining.