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The Quick & The Dirty: #15 Villanova 72, #18 Marquette 71

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The Golden Eagles made a very late push, but it seems things were decided 15 minutes earlier.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Villanova Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette lost a basketball game on Wednesday night, 72-71. It was more interesting than that, of course, for a lot of reasons, but that’s the end result. That’s fine, Marquette wasn’t favored to win, so whatever. On to Pittsburgh, as Bill Belichick would say.

Of course, this is a sports internet site, so we’ve got a few more things to say about the #18 Golden Eagles coming up short against the #15 ranked Villanova. If you came into Wednesday night thinking that Marquette could win the basketball game, you were disabused of that notion fairly quickly. Villanova hit five of their first 10 three-point attempts in the first six and a half minutes of the game to take a 17-7 lead and quickly make everyone think that this was not Marquette’s night.

That lead would balloon to 15 on — guess what — a three-pointer from Justin Moore with 8:03 left in the half. Having thought that Marquette could but probably wouldn’t win this game as it started, I switched myself over to “hey, let’s not walk away from this looking like chumps” mode. I was rewarded as Marquette immediately trimmed the lead to nine on back to back threes from Markus Howard and Sacar Anim. Another three from Howard with 1:45 to go in the half ended the scoring for the first 20 minutes with Marquette down nine, 38-29.

Well, that’s mostly respectable. Good for everyone involved.

And then, as seems to be the case all too often under head coach Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette failed to realize that the second half was starting and that they would need to continue to play with the same tenacity that allowed them to trim six points off VU’s biggest lead in the first half. Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels scored on Nova’s first two possessions of the secon dhalf, with Samuels getting an and-1 gift from Koby McEwen to stick the lead back to 14 very quickly. That was the start of a 9-0 run to open the second half by the Wildcats, and with 16:27 to go, Marquette trailed 47-29.

In retrospect, the game was over at this point. Letting the lead blow out to that degree so quickly was Marquette’s #1 problem in this game. No one play ever decides a game, but three and a half minutes of tomfoolery definitely do.

Anyway.

Let’s fast forward to 5:51 to go, as a putback from Jamal Cain cut the lead to eight. The lead had been wobbling around between 10 and 15 points for the previous 10 minutes, but here, where it went back under single digits, that’s when the “y’know, stupider things have happened” lights went on. A dunk by Theo John cut the lead to six. A three by McEwen trimmed it to five.

And then VU got a pair of freebies from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and a triple from Gillespie. 10 point margin, 70-60, 2:03 to go.

Marquette still wasn’t dead. A three from Markus Howard was followed in rapid fashion by a layup from the star senior. Back to a five point game, 56 seconds to play. JRE split some free throws, and McEwen grabbed his own offensive rebound off his own missed free throw but got tied up by the Wildcats. That was a mistake, as Marquette got an inbound to Howard off a spectacularly designed play that got him WIDE open, BOOM, three point game, 40 seconds left.

Oh, and that shot tied Howard with Lawrence Moten for the most points ever scored in Big East regular season games in a career.

Kind of a whole thing.

Marquette induced a miss from Saddiq Bey on the other end, and then Howard was the recipient of a foul while the Wildcats were up three.

He missed both free throws including completely missing the rim on the second. VU inbounds, JRE gets one free throw to make it a four point game with four seconds to go.

Game’s over. Oh well, pack up the bags, fly home to Milwaukee, shake it off, attack the remaining six regular season games with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

Except it’s not over, at least not time wise. Howard was left with exactly enough time to come down the floor and rip a 27 footer as time expired. Meaningless to the game, but meaningful to history, as that was the shot that officially broke Moten’s scoring record.

Kind of sucks that it happened that way, if we’re being honest about it.

Howard finished with a game high 24 points to go with five rebounds and two assists. He also broke Wesley Matthews’ Marquette career free throws made record along the way, which is something. I’m not sure what, but it’s definitely something. Koby McEwen had an incredibly underrated 12 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, and I say “underrated” because I didn’t realize he had 11 rebounds until I looked at the box score after the game. Jamal Cain had a spectacular performance, coming off the bench for 13 points and eight rebounds. It was desperately needed, as Brendan Bailey had a definitely not cursed by our own Ben Snider glowing about him yesterday oh-fer from the field. Robinson-Earl had 17 points to lead Villanova, and he added a super 11 rebounds and tied for the team high with two other guys with four assists.

Up Next: Five days off. After that, Marquette will be back at Fiserv Forum to host Creighton. The Bluejays moved into a tie with Villanova for second place in the Big East on Wednesday night by going into The Rock and beating Seton Hall, and they will host DePaul on Saturday before making the trip northeast.