It took a team effort on Saturday afternoon — a hot start from Stevie Mitchell, big shots from Chase Ross, a late dunk from Olivier-Maxence Prosper, and an overall defensive effort in the second half — but basketball is a team game, after all. All of it combined for Marquette men’s basketball going into Finneran Pavilion and coming out with a win over Villanova for not just the second straight season but the second time in program history. The Golden Eagles are now 11-4 overall and 3-1 in Big East play.
The name of the game in the first half was scoring. Both teams did a lot of it, as they both cleared 1.15 points per trip down the floor in the first 20 minutes. Stevie Mitchell carried the load for the Golden Eagles early, scoring eight points in the first five minutes and his second three-pointer of the game pulled MU even at 12 points each. I’m guessing he could hear a bunch of people from Reading, just an hour away, in the building. If both teams were scoring a bunch, that means Marquette wasn’t getting stops, and we all know how much Shaka Smart wants his team doing that. It wasn’t happening to the tune of Villanova grabbing an advantage and slowly expanding it. A six point deficit for Marquette with 12:30 left in the half turned into eight at the 8:24 mark off a triple from Brandon Slater, and if you started to think “uh oh, Villanova’s figured themselves out, MU’s in trouble,” that was fair.
But Stevie Mitchell was there to pick the Golden Eagles up, He stuck a missed Tyler Kolek shot back up and in, and then got into the paint and scored again the next time down the floor to make it a three point game, 29-26, with six minutes before intermission. All that scoring from his starting backcourt mate must have inspired Kam Jones because he went OFFFFFF after that, cashing three long range bombs in the span of 30 seconds to bring MU within two.
The Golden Eagles would trim it as close as just one point, but Villanova got it together just long enough right before halftime to head to break with a five point lead, 44-39. Eric Dixon’s three to close the scoring in the front end effectively started off a 7-0 Wildcats run bridging the break, and so it was a nine point lead for the Wildcats, their largest of the game.
Guess who got MU their first points of the second half? That’s right, Stevie Mitchell, delivering a big ol’ three-pointer to make it a six point game, and then he picked VU freshman Cam Whitmore’s pocket for a runout layup, AND THEN scored on MU’s next possession as well. Dang, man, leave some for everyone else!
Off that make from Mitchell, Dixon drilled a three-pointer on the other end, so it was 53-46 Villanova. This second half was not going so great for Marquette, getting outscored 9-7 over the first four minutes. Not bad, mind you, but when you were down five at halftime, you’d like to immediately make a punch and that wasn’t happening.
This is where it happened. You probably saw that 53 for VU with 16:15 to play and said “hey, wait a minute, I can do math.” Yep. Villanova would score just one field goal over the next six plus minutes. Along the way, Chase Ross erupted for a layup and a three off a David Joplin steal, and then after VU’s only bucket in this stretch, Joplin came up big on back to back possessions with two baskets. Ross’ three-pointer tied the game, and then Joplin’s second bucket put the Golden Eagles out in front, 57-55, for the first time since the game’s opening minutes.
Chris “Don’t Call Me Ryan” Arcidiacono hit a big three-pointer for Villanova to grab the lead back, MU answered just 14 seconds later with another three from Ross. Mark Armstrong dunked, Oso Ighodaro jammed one home just 10 seconds later. Anything you can do, I can do better, and MU was still up two with just under eight minutes to play.
MU’s offense got a weeeee bit shaky for a stretch here as did their defense. Villanova got a couple of threes, Marquette got lucky when Ighodaro quickly jumped on a loose ball on the floor after his own miss for a possession arrow rebound, and then finally got his shot to fall on the ensuing possession. All of this combined for a 66-66 tie with 3:42 to play. With three minutes to play. With two minutes to play.
Then, with some crafty and creative extra passing, Prosper got loose coming downhill off a pass from Ighodaro and slammed it home with both hands for a 68-66 lead with 1:42 to play. This ended up being the last basket of the game somehow. Tyler Kolek came up with a big defensive rebound, Stevie Mitchell missed an awkward looking layup, Arcidiacono missed a three, Kolek grabbed the board again, and then fouling weirdness started.
See, to this point, there had been just six total fouls in the entire second half. Villanova had to foul Marquette five times to get them into the bonus. This burned 11 seconds off the clock, with most of it oddly coming on the very last one as it almost looked like the Wildcats were suddenly reluctant to actually issue the foul to send MU to the line.
Aaaaaaaaand then Kam Jones missed the front end.
Now it was Nova’s turn to get fouled because Marquette had fouls to give, and Mitchell was very creative about what he did. He let the Wildcats inbound it and catch it cleanly and waited for them to make any kind of an offensive move with the ball and then fouled them. Did it three straight times, burning bits of clock as he went, all the way to fouling out of the game. That wasn’t ideal, but it did what it needed to do: Take 4 seconds off the clock. This still left Nova with six seconds to try to win the game. They elected to go to Eric Dixon for a turnaround fadeaway just outside the lane to try and tie it. It did not work. He missed. Marquette won.
Mitchell finished with 19 points before fouling out in the closing seconds, which is a new career high for the sophomore. Weird fact: He set his career high in his very first game at Marquette with 14 points, and then hasn’t touched it since. He also had a career high three steals to go with two rebounds and two assists. Kam Jones going 4-for-7 from long range helped him to 14 points as the only other MU scorer in double digits. Tyler Kolek and David Joplin tied for the team high in rebounds with five, while Kolek bettered his season average with eight assists.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: Marquette will try for their fourth Big East win of the season this coming Tuesday when they start off 2023 with a visit to St. John’s. Tipoff on FS1 is scheduled for 5:30pm Central time. The Red Storm have lost three straight games after suffering a 22 point defeat on the road to Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon.