Milwaukee, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - With time winding down in the regular season, the sixth-ranked Villanova Wildcats continue their quest for the Big East Conference crown when they take on the Marquette Golden Eagles at BMO Harris Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon.
Villanova is the class of the Big East, as it owns a 24-2 overall record and an 11-2 league ledger. Holding a two-game lead in the conference standings with only a handful of games to play, the Wildcats are poised to secure the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big East Tournament. VU won its seventh consecutive game this past Monday, exacting revenge for one of its two losses on the season by routing Seton Hall at home, 80-54.
Marquette won twice as many games as it lost (8-4) during the non-conference portion of its schedule, but the start of Big East play has resulted in a miserable 3-10 mark. The Golden Eagles, who are just ahead of last-place Creighton (3-11) heading into the weekend, have lost two in a row and eight of their last nine overall. The most recent setback occurred last Saturday against the aforementioned Bluejays in Omaha, 77-70.
Villanova was a 70-52 winner over visiting Marquette back on Feb. 4, as Ryan Arcidiacono scored 18 points to lead the Wildcats to their fourth straight win over the Golden Eagles. As a result, VU leads the all-time series by a 15-9 margin.
Villanova got solid efforts from all five starters in the revenge game against Seton Hall, led by Darrun Hilliard with 18 points thanks to a 4-of-8 showing from 3-point range. Dylan Ennis added 12 points and was one of three players with four assists, while Daniel Ochefu logged a double-double consisting of 11 points and 12 rebounds. Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston chipped in 10 points apiece for the Wildcats, who shot nearly 50 percent from the field, draining 12-of-27 long-range launches along the way. A 16-of-19 performance at the foul line also played an integral role in the positive outcome, as did a 19-8 edge in bench points.
Hilliard continues to sit atop Villanova's scoring chart for the season, as he averages 14.3 ppg, and he is joined in double figures by Arcidiacono who nets 10.0 ppg to go along with his team-leading 3.6 apg. In all, six players turn in at least 9.2 ppg, and Ochefu is close to averaging a double-double with his 9.3 points and 8.4 caroms per contest. Collectively, the Wildcats are putting up 74.7 ppg to rank second in the Big East, while allowing a league-low 60.2 ppg. VU is the best 3-point shooting team in the conference (.376), and it also owns favorable margins in both rebounding (+1.9) and turnovers (+3.4, tops in the league).
Only seven players saw action for Marquette in last week's loss at Creighton, and it was Duane Wilson who had the best showing as he nailed five treys en route to 26 points. It was the fourth straight game the Golden Eagles played without leading scorer Matt Carlino who continue to deal with the effects of the concussion he suffered in the first meeting with Villanova. Steve Taylor, Jr. tacked on a dozen points and Luke Fischer had 11 for MU, which shot just 39.7 percent from the floor, despite making good on 9-of-20 tries from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Bluejays shot 54.9 percent from the field, knocked down eight treys and claimed a massive 42-26 advantage on the glass.
Even with Carlino and his 14.5 ppg in the lineup, the Golden Eagles weren't what anyone could consider an offensive juggernaut. As it is, the team is producing a Big East-low 66.1 ppg, and not surprisingly it is one of the worst shooting teams across the board (.438 overall, .343 3-pt., .670 free-throw). Marquette does do a nice job in the turnover department, ranking third in the league with a +2.12 margin, but it is dead last in rebounding differential (-4.5). Wilson (12.3 ppg) and Fischer (10.1 ppg) are both averaging double digits as well.