The road woes for the Marquette Golden Eagles continued on Wednesday night as the blue and gold were bested by No. 12 Villanova, 75-70, at The Pavilion in the first of three consecutive contests away from the Bradley Center.
Losing on the road against a conference foe for the fourth time in as many games, MU, who shot 45.8 percent from the field on the night, received 15 points apiece from Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom as the Golden Eagles (14-9, 5-5) fell to 7-10 all time against the Wildcats.
Villanova (18-4, 6-3), who put the brakes on a two-game losing streak, saw five players score in double figures and was paced by sophomore center Mouphtao Yarou’s game-high 18 points.
Going head to head against a nationally ranked opponent for the seventh time in less than a month, the Golden Eagles nearly overcame a 14-point deficit midway through the second half, but were unable to overcome the Wildcats’ enormous advantage at the foul line (MU shot 13-14 from the charity stripe, whereas Villanova went 29-33 on their free tosses).
Behind five points from Butler, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half, MU opened up a 7-2 lead two and a half minutes in.
The Wildcats, who shot 43.8 percent for the game, responded with a 17-5 run over the ensuing eight-plus minutes—in which Jay Wright’s club limited MU to two field goals—as the home team held a 19-12 advantage with 8:50 to play after a layup by Yarou.
MU pulled to within three, 23-20, after a pair of free throws by Davante Garder (the freshman’s lone points on the night) at the 3:36 mark. However, the Wildcats, anchored by five points from Corey Stokes, concluded the half on an 11-5 run to take a 34-25 lead into the break.
The Golden Eagles, who shot 34.6 percent in the opening frame (9-26), received seven first-half points from Johnson-Odom and Joe Fulce while Jae Crowder, who scored 25 points against Syracuse on Saturday, added three points on 1-2 shooting during the first 20 minutes.
Nursing a 39-31 lead with 17:21 to play, the Wildcats, who shot 54.5 percent in the second half, saw their lead swell to 55-41 midway through the second half on the strength of six points via Yarou.
MU, who was outrebounded by Villanova, 32-31, saw six players score over the subsequent five minutes as Buzz Williams’ club whittled the deficit to 62-59 with 4:23 on the clock.
The Golden Eagles would remain with arm’s distance of the Wildcats behind seven points from Butler down the stretch; however, they would get no closer as Villanova shot 7-9 at the free-thrown line over the final 1:35 to secure their 46th straight victory at The Pavilion.
“We have to find something to change the tempo,” said Williams, according to The AP. “We can’t just keep trading baskets.”
After a week-long hiatus, the Golden Eagles travel to Tampa, Fla. to play the South Florida Bulls, one of three Big East clubs with a losing record, on Wednesday, Feb.9 at 6:00pm CST.
– Villanova senior forward Antonio Pena, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, scored his 1,000th career point.
– The Wildcats defeated the Golden Eagles at their on-campus arena for their fourth time in as many games.
– Fulce finished with seven points—the second-most points scored by the senior forward in Big East play this season—in 16 minutes off of the MU bench.
– MU trumped Villanova in points in the paint, 38-30 and fast break points, 6-4. The Wildcats, who were ranked as high as No. 7 in The AP poll two weeks ago, held the advantage in points off turnovers, 13-10, and second chance points, 15-12.
– The Golden Eagles received 15 points from its bench, a drastic improvement from the second unit’s two-point showing against Syracuse o Saturday.
– The 59 combined points in the first half marked the lowest halftime total for an MU game this season.