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I Lack The Words: #9 Marquette 85, Villanova 80

It was in the bag, then it was up for grabs, then it was tilting back towards the Golden Eagles, then it wasn’t, then it was over.

Marquette v Villanova Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

They were booing.

They were booing at Finneran Pavilion. They were booing early at Finneran Pavilion, as #9 Marquette jumped out to an 11-0 lead, and slowly pushed it up a hill to 20, 37-17 on a Ben Gold three-pointer with precisely five minutes left in the first half.

Flashforward 25 minutes of game time and what felt like approximately three hours of my life, and Marquette gutted out an 85-80 victory over the Wildcats. MU’s winning streak on the season extends to five straight, and head coach Shaka Smart’s record at The Finn moves to 3-0.

I’m not joking. That 20 point lead went away. And not in the “yeah, obviously Villanova chipped away at it a little bit” way. I mean in the “they scored 11 straight and 14 of the final 16 points of the first half to make it a single digit margin at halftime. I mean in the “the Wildcats ran off 14 straight early in the second half, including six from Justin Moore thanks to a foul on a rare made three for the super senior.”

13:11 left to go, Villanova led by four, 51-47, in a game that Marquette led 37-17. 34-10 run in just under 12 minutes of game time. Honestly, it looked like Marquette thought the game ended when they went up 20 and they didn’t have to hammer down all 40 minutes to get the victory. Things were shaaaaaaaaaky as hell, to say the least, as Marquette did not have Kam Jones available due to an ankle injury and Tre Norman left the game after an inadvertent knee strike to his head in the first half. Chase Ross made his return after suffering a shoulder injury though, and he was outstanding in this game. In fact, he started the turnaround by drawing a foul on a three-pointer with 12:41 to go. He drained all the freebies for three of his 11 points in the game, and then Tyler Kolek went Beast Mode. He drained three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to knock Marquette back out in front on his way to 4-for-6 shooting from long range in the second half and 19 of his 32 points.

Villanova traded buckets in the paint and free throws for three-pointers from Kolek and David Joplin, and Marquette went up nine with a dunk from Oso Ighodaro. Ah, yes, the game is back under control, just guide it into the hangar and we’re done here.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, THERE’S STILL 7:27 TO PLAY?

A free throw parade from Ighodaro and Kolek pushed the margin to 12, order restoring to the universe, that’s a 25-9 run for Marquette, all done now.

6:13 TO GO? HOW???

Villanova made good use of their time, snapping off a 9-0 run mostly built on free throws — the two teams combined to shoot 38 freebies after intermission — and hey, look at that, three point game with 4:35 to go, anyone’s ball game.

Then it was the birthday boy’s time to carry the team in his hometown’s neck of the woods. Stevie Mitchell split a pair of free throws, then drained both of a pair over a minute later. Marquette by six, time bleeding away and Villanova was about to go over three minutes without a field goal. Mitchell answered a TJ Bamba layup with a second chance bucket of his own. Under 100 seconds left.

More free throws, this time from VU’s Eric Dixon after Joplin rejected his shot at the rim. Then, on the other end, the single weirdest decision I have ever seen: Tyler Kolek gets the ball to Oso Ighodaro in the paint, time for his patented push shot floater..... and Dixon just runs away from him to the rim to wait for the rebound. He does not contest the shot in what was a one-on-one situation with his team down four with less than 70 seconds left.

Oso made it, duh.

That was kind of the end of the game. Yes, Nova made some shots, but Kolek downed free throw after free throw, and then came up with a game sealing steal with three seconds left mmediately after Chase Ross’ long inbound pass was tipped away from the intended target and Bamba came up with the ball. One more freebie, and that was that.

As you can guess, Tyler Kolek is the KenPom MVP of the game after his career best — even including his time at George Mason — 32 points on 10-for-20 shooting and 5-for-8 from long range. He also added six rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. Stevie Mitchell finished his night with 12 points and just barely missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Oso Ighodaro was neat, getting 15 points, eight rebounds, a block, and a steal, while David Joplin (12) and Chase Ross (11) both got into double digits in scoring as well.

How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?

Up Next: It’ll be another road game for the Golden Eagles, their fourth in the last five games. They’ll tip it off at Georgetown in Washington, D.C., with a start time set for 1pm Central time. The Hoyas have lost five straight after falling 84-76 at Providence on Saturday, and it’s actually eight of their last nine as defeats, or eight straight in the non-DePaul category of the Big East.