Well, let’s get the facts out of the way.
Behind a career high 29 points from Jermaine Samuels, Villanova fended off YOUR #10 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles at Finneran Pavilion on Wednesday night, handing the Golden Eagles a 67-61 loss. MU is now 23-5 on the year and 12-3 in Big East play. Marquette had an opportunity to clinch the #1 seed in the Big East tournament and at least a share of the regular season championship, but that can has been kicked down the road for now.
How did Marquette let a chance to claim the regular season championship slip through their hands? Quite simply, turnovers. The Golden Eagles coughed the ball up 18 times in this game, 10 times in the first half, eight in the second. Those giveaways ended up wasting the amazing shooting performance that Marquette put on here. MU finished with an effective field goal percentage of 57.3%, marking the first time this season that they shot over 54% and lost. They rained in 41% of their three-point attempts and connected on 54% of their twos. They were passing the ball effectively, tossing together 12 assists on 23 made baskets.
Even better than their own shooting was what they did to Villanova’s shooting. The Wildcats had an eFG% of just 42% and continued their ice cold long range shooting from their recent three game losing streak, connecting on just 28% of their 32 attempts beyond the arc. Inside wasn’t much better, as VU shot just 42% there.
Marquette just never had enough possessions that ended in a shot to definitively put the game away.
The turning point of the game is probably the literal mid-point of the game. At the 7:02 mark of the first half, Phil Booth scored (off a turnover, natch) to put Villanova up 24-12. Marquette then scored eight in a row to make it a four point game, and Markus Howard’s first three-pointer of the game made it a two point game with 17 seconds left before intermission. One of the better seven minute runs you’ll see from a team, no doubt, but the half officially ended with Phil Booth sinking two free throws when Sam Hauser fouled him as time expired.
32-28 Wildcats at the half. All things considered, that’s fine.
Theo John scored on the opening possession of the second half...... and then Nova ripped off eight straight. That’s a 10-2 run bridging halftime for the Wildcats, and it came at a time when Marquette absolutely could not afford to give Villanova a glimmer of hope. They had them on the ropes across the final seven minutes and couldn’t land the punch they needed to end the fight.
After it took Villanova 90 seconds to jump out to a 10 point lead in the second half, it took Marquette the next five minutes to wind that lead off and take a two point lead, 46-44, on a Howard three-pointer. From there, it was your standard issue back-and-forth haymaker battle between two good college basketball teams. Four of Marquette’s turnovers cropped up across the final 13 minutes, including Howard needing to sit down after committing two charges about a minute apart because he was up to four fouls. When he left, he had just reached 24 points in the game with 9:28 to go after finishing the first half with 11. It seemed that we were on a collision course with another Howard explosion to help Marquette close this one out, but it was derailed before we got there. Howard sat until after the under-4 media timeout, and he would score just one more point the rest of the way.
We have to tip our cap to Jermaine Samuels. He scored 29 points for a new career high after not scoring at all in the three previous games and not tallying more than 15 points in a game all season long. He finished a bananas 5-for-13 from behind the arc, which is wild when you consider that he had only attempted 46 threes in the entire season up until this game. The Massachusetts native also had nine rebounds, an assist, and a block, so nice job, sir.
Howard led Marquette with 25 points on the night, chipping in two rebounds, four assists, and seven of Marquette’s 18 turnovers. Sacar Anim had three, and Joey Hauser had four. Not good. To make up for it, the younger Hauser had eight points, six rebounds, and three assists, while older brother Sam Hauser had 13 points, seven rebounds, and two assists.
How about some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of FS1 and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Marquette can still lock up that regular season title with any combination of wins and Villanova losses that totals up to two over the rest of the regular season. Opportunity #1 comes knocking for the Golden Eagles on Sunday when Creighton comes to Milwaukee. We probably shouldn’t count on Butler to hand the Wildcats a loss on Saturday, so thankfully MU has full control of their own destiny with three games left to go.