Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Continuing their quest for their second straight Big East Conference crown, the seventh-ranked Villanova Wildcats entertain the Marquette Golden Eagles at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.
Marquette has largely been a disappointment this season, its first under coach Steve Wojciechowski. The Golden Eagles come into this contest a game under .500 overall at 10-11, and they have won just two of their first nine Big East bouts. MU is currently mired in a five-game losing streak, and is still in search of its first true road win, having failed in five previous attempts.
Villanova is an impressive 19-2 on the season, with both losses coming to Big East rivals Seton Hall and Georgetown. The Wildcats have won two in a row since the setback to the Hoyas, rolling over Creighton (71-50) and DePaul (68-55). Villanova is 12-0 at home in 2014-15, and it will get a chance at redemption this Saturday when its hosts Georgetown in Philadelphia.
Villanova owns a 14-9 lead in the all-time series with Marquette, and that includes a season sweep of the Golden Eagles in 2013-14. The teams are scheduled to meet in Milwaukee on Feb. 21 to complete the regular-season series.
Marquette fought hard in last Saturday's home game against Butler, but the Golden Eagles fell in overtime, 72-68. MU held the Bulldogs to 37.3 percent shooting for the game, but made good on only 38.1 percent of its total shots, which included a 6-of-21 showing from 3-point range. Both teams performed well at the free-throw line, with Butler going 17-of-18 and Marquette 14-of-17, but the Golden Eagles were beaten badly on the boards, 47-33, and they missed all five of their long-range launches in the extra session. Duane Wilson and Matt Carlino paced the home team in defeat by scoring 18 points apiece.
The Golden Eagles are scoring just slightly more than they are allowing this season (68.1 ppg to 66.1 ppg), and they boast three double-digit scorers in Carlino (14.8 ppg, 3.5 apg), Wilson (12.0 ppg) and Luke Fischer (10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), the latter of whom has appeared in only 13 games, starting just eight of them. MU routinely loses the rebounding battle (-3.6), but does a nice job of goading the opposition into nearly 15 turnovers per outing to come up with a +2.4 differential in that department.
Trailing by six at the break in its recent trip to DePaul, Villanova went on a tear over the final 20 minutes to thwart the upset bid of the Blue Demons. The Wildcats outscored the home team, 37-18, in the second half, as Ryan Arcidiacono scored all 18 of his points in the period to lead the 'Cats to their 19th victory of the season. JayVaughn Pinkston added 14 points thanks to his 10-of-14 effort at the foul line, while Darrun Hilliard chipped in with 11 points and Daniel Ochefu grabbed a dozen rebounds for the VU squad that shot 45.5 percent from the floor, but just 26.3 percent beyond the arc. Significant advantages in points at the foul line (23-9) and on the glass (35-18) helped the Wildcats pull away.
Hilliard (13.3 ppg) is the only player for coach Jay Wright's club averaging double figures in the scoring column at the moment, but five others net between 9.6 and 9.9 ppg, demonstrating the kind of balance coaches love to see. As a team, the Wildcats are putting up 75.3 ppg while permitting only 60.6 ppg. They are outshooting the opposition in every area, and their defensive effort has foes netting a mere 29.9 percent of their long-range launches while coughing the ball up an average of 15 times per contest. A +2.7 rebounding edge doesn't seem like much, but every little bit helps.