Saturday, January 4, 2020

Green's five takeaways from Marquette's 71-60 win over No. 10 Villanova

Photo Credit: Aaron Gash- AP Photo

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

The Marquette Golden Eagles (11-3, 1-1 Big East) came into Saturday’s game in need of a bounce back after Wednesday’s 92-75 loss to Creighton and got what they needed in a 71-60 win over the No. 10 Villanova Wildcats (10-3, 1-1 Big East). Here are my five takeaways from Fiserv Forum for CSO.

1) Zero to hero: 

After being held scoreless at Creighton on New Year’s Day, Koby McEwen brushed the dirt off his shoulders as the perfect complement to Markus Howard with 22 points in 36 minutes.

While McEwen excelled on offense, the biggest play of the game came on the defensive end as the junior came up with a heads up play to call timeout on the floor after a steal with 5:12 left in regulation to keep Marquette in control at 58-45. McEwen emphasized toughness on both sides of the ball, while Villanova coach Jay Wright agreed with the outcome and the inability to put stops together.

“We know Villanova is a great program and preaches toughness,” McEwen said. “We had to be the tougher team today. I think that’s one of the things we preached preparing for this game. We came in and executed and did those things in order to come out with the win.”

“He’s got a great toughness to him and can shot three’s,” Wright said. “You have to guard him at all three levels. He is a physical kid and was really good today.”

2) Defensive grit:

Known more their flash on offense, the sizzle came on defense as the Marquette Golden Eagles held the Wildcats to 9-of-38 (24 percent) from long range. The highlight came in the second half as Villanova struggled to get into a rhythm from the perimeter and went 3-of-20 in the final 20 minutes.

Wright gave credit to Marquette’s scrappy defense for taking Villanova out of sync in the early stages.

“We didn’t handle that well. To get behind to a good shooting team like Marquette, you will be in trouble,” Wright said.

3) The Markus Howard show:

In need of a better start in its Big East home opener, Division I leading scorer Markus Howard provided the dose with 12 of the first 20 MU points on the way to a game-high 29 for the Golden Eagles.

While Villanova appeared to have a solution to stop the senior in the early stages of the second half from the field, Howard contributed from the free-throw line, where he made his final six points of the game.

4) Gillespie’s struggles:

Fresh off a 24-point outing in the league opener against Xavier on Dec. 30, 2019, Collin Gillespie looked like a shell of himself as Marquette’s defense refused to let the junior out of sight.

Marquette’s suffocating defense held the junior to a season-low six points, on 2-of-9 from the field and fouled out with 33 seconds left in regulation.

“Our scout team and coach did an unbelievable job of preparing us within 48 hours coming back from Creighton,” McEwen said. “We locked into the game plan and executed defensively.”

5) Resume-building win:

While Marquette has come up with noteworthy wins against USC, Purdue and Kansas State in non-conference play, Saturday’s victory over Villanova provided a win that could go a long way in Marquette’s NCAA tournament resume’ come March.

Despite the win, there are no easy outs in any Big East game and Marquette center Theo John knows Tuesday’s game at home against Providence cannot be taken lightly.

“There’s not a bad team in this conference. We can celebrate now, but with Providence at 2-0, we have to lock in and be ready for Tuesday’s game,” John said.