Friday, January 26, 2018

Can Marquette duplicate Bradley Center magic one last time against Villanova?

Photo Credit: Marquette Athletics

In need of a program-changing win in coach Steve Wojciechowski’s then-third season, the Marquette Golden Eagles delivered with a 74-72 upset win over the then-No. 1 Villanova Wildcats on Jan. 24, 2017 at the Bradley Center.

Fast forward a little over a year later as Marquette (13-7, 4-4 Big East) and Villanova (19-1, 6-1 Big East) are in familiar territories— the Golden Eagles with added credibility off a NCAA Tournament appearance last season, while the Wildcats are the current the top-ranked team in the Associated Press Poll with a collision course on Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee.

The visit from Villanova will be the final trip to the Bradley Center as Marquette moves across the street next season to its new digs (Arena name TBD. 

Villanova coach Jay Wright views the Marquette game as an equal compared to the other Big East schools on the round robin schedule.

“We try and not get into any of that stuff because it gives you more respect for Marquette because they always have a good crowd every time we go to Milwaukee,” Wright said in Thursday’s Big East teleconference.

Villanova’s strength this season has been its perimeter with 13 games in the double-digit mark in three-pointers made. With at least 12 Wildcat long-range makes in their last five games, Golden Eagles coach Steve Wojciechowski knows limiting open perimeter looks will be key to another upset win.

“When you are playing Villanova, they hit a lot of three pointers per game,” Wojciechowski said. “You gotta be able to limit their three-point shooting as well.”

The status of Marquette forward Sam Hauser is day-to-day with a hip injury suffered in the second half in a 89-70 loss to Xavier on Jan. 24.

“Sam is our rock and is important of a player as we have on our team and we will see how he is feeling,” Wojciechowski said.

The Wildcats have been stellar as they have held opponents to under 40 percent shooting in the last three games, but will be in for a challenge as they have the task of stopping the conference’s top two scorers in Markus Howard (22.1 PPG) and Andrew Rowsey (20.1 PPG) for the second time this season.

“You have to look at the team you are playing and not get caught up in the stats,” Wright said.

“Marquette had 11 three-pointers in the last meeting and we felt like we did a decent job guarding on defense. Any other time we give that amount of threes, it means we did a terrible job. Hauser, Howard and Rowsey do a great job, but it is the other guys that hurt us driving the ball to the rim. Marquette is a really balanced team.”

Villanova will be without Phil Booth indefinitely with a fractured bone in his hand, which he suffered in an 89-69 win over Providence on Jan. 23. Wright acknowledged that various players will have to make up in different styles in Booth’s loss.

“It will mean more minutes for Dhamir (Cosby-Roundtree) and Omari (Spellman), along with getting Tim Delaney back into the rotation,” Wright said. “Phil Booth is a huge loss to us because he is the most respected guy on our team. Doesn’t mean we can’t be successful without him, but we will have to play a bit bigger and make up for his loss in other areas.”

Expect Jalen Brunson’s workload to increase, but might not be much of an issue as he leads the Big East in the assist-turnover ratio with 3.3.

No. 1 Villanova at Marquette

Tip: Noon, Bradley Center

TV/Online: FOX/FOX Sports GO

Commentators: Brian Anderson, Len Elmore and Shannon Spake (sidelines)