Seeming unfazed and confident in a hostile environment, the Villanova Wildcats moved her to the No. 14 Marquette Golden Eagles—but then the last six minutes happened.
Like so many times throughout the season, another close game slid back and forth away from the Cats in prime time. Villanova narrowly held a four-point lead, until Marquette dominated the final six minutes and pulled ahead to win 71-64.
“They did some tough passes down the field, some offensive rebounds, just the little things,” said Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune. “Throughout that whole game, it was one or two possession games, it could be a rebound, it could be a charge, a dive—we look at the whole game. They’re a really good team, they made more plays than us.”
The Wildcats only had two shots in the final eight minutes of action. Only one of those came during Marquette changing the game and shutting it down 16-3 over the last 6:17 of the game, a dunk by Caleb Daniels with 10 seconds left, when the game was already out of reach.
Eric Dixon went 1 of 2 on the line to give the Wildcats their final lead of the game, 62-61 with 4:47 left. Marquette’s Tyler Kulick put the Golden Eagles ahead on their next possession, draining two free throws.
From there, the Cats got the cold shoulder, but remained strong defensively, until Marquette finally managed to make it a two-possession play and pull away in the final minute of action. Villanova was unable to break down the Havoc defense late on, while Marquette had the points in time to seal the win and hold steady in the Big East standings.
“They played harder, they were bad,” said the Neptunes of Marquette’s effort in the second half. “They get into passing lanes, they get a few swerves. They’re just a tough, bad team.”
It was a close game from the start, and neither team led by double digits. The Cats clung on to a 35-34 lead, after Justin Moore buried a three-pointer with less than five seconds left, only to knock down long-running Cam Jones at the buzzer at halftime.
In addition to the cold shooting of late, the cats were sentenced to death. They gave the ball 19 times in loss. Fouls were also an issue, with Cam Whitmore, Brandon Slater and Dixon all handling fouls.
“They took the game, we had other players and we had the lead in the first half,” said the Neptunes. “I thought we played better in the first half, so (a foul issue) didn’t have any effect.”
Dixon and Daniels led the Cats with 14 points each. Daniels also had four boards, three assists and five turnovers, while Dixon shot 6 of 8, cutting to six boards, one assist, a steal and four turnovers. Brendan Hausen heated off the bench, scoring 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting from outside the arc. Moore had all nine of his points in the first half, but also finished with four rebounds, four assists and three turnovers.
For Marquette, Tyler Kolek had 20 points, with five boards, six assists, three steals and only two turnovers. Cam Jones added 18 points on 6 of 13 shooting. Oso Ighodaro scored 10 points, three boards, two steals and a block. Philadelphia native Stevie Mitchell had eight points, five rebounds and two steals.
“They do a lot of things well,” Neptune said of Marquette. “They have a bunch of decision makers, their whole team makes great decisions. They don’t take a lot of bad shots. They share the ball. Defensively, they’re very connected.”
With the loss, Villanova fell to 10-12 overall and 4-7 in Big East play. They will resume their Midwest road trip in Creighton on Saturday. Information submission is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.