Villanova Wildcats Overpower Marquette, Advance to Big East Semi-Finals

The number 1 seeded Villanova Wildcats devoured the Marquette Golden Eagles 84-49 in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal game on Thursday afternoon, March 12 at Madison Square Garden (to the relief of many anxious members of Nova Nation). Last year, the Wildcats also entered the Big East Tournament as a 1 seed and laid an egg by losing to Seton Hall 64-63 in a quarterfinal match-up, on a buzzer-beating basket. This year, Villanova led the entire way from the opening tip-off to the final horn. Last year brought heartbreak to Villanova. This year, it was [Josh] Hart, that helped the Wildcats break Marquette. Hart paced Villanova with a game-high 20 points and a strong defensive effort that helped shutdown Marquette’s Matt Carlino.

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Villanova opened the game on a 13-2 run. Marquette closed Villanova’s lead to 2 points, 18-16 with an 8-0 run, causing Villanova Coach Jay Wright to call a timeout with 11:27 left in the first half. When the Wildcats came back on the court, they went on 17-0 run to blow the game wide-open. First Josh Hart scored 11 straight points – hitting three triples and a layup. Then Dylan Ennis hit two three-pointers to give Villanova a 35-16 lead with 5:08 remaining in the half. The half ended with Villanova up by a score of 39-21.

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Villanova shot an extraordinary 62.5% from distance in the first half, hitting 10 of 16 three-point shots. Hart was a perfect 4-4 from distance and 5-5 overall. Ennis chipped in 9 points hitting three three-pointers. Darrun Hilliard added 6 points and also had 6 assists. Villanova’s defense limited the Golden Eagles to 9-27 shooting in the first half. Notably, Carlino was held scoreless. On Wednesday night, Carlino scorched Seton Hall for 26 points as the Golden Eagles routed the Pirates 78-56 to open the Tournament.

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In the second half, Villanova continued its hot shooting and extended the lead to 48-25 with 16:06 to go in the game. Marquette managed to cut the lead to 50-35 following an 8-0 run. Villanova closed out the game by outscoring Marquette 34-14, on its way to a very convincing 84-49 victory.

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Hart was joined in double figures by Hilliard with 13 points, and Ennis with a dozen. JayVaughn Pinkston and Kris Jenkins with 9 points each, just missed scoring in double figures. Hilliard paced Villanova by dishing a game-high 8 assists versus 1 turnover. Villanova had 22 assists (on 30 baskets) against 11 turnovers. Villanova’s leading rebounder was Daniel Ochefu with 7 caroms. The victorious Wildcats hit 30-57 field goal attempts (52.6%), including 17 0f 29 three-point attempts (58.6%).

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Marquette’s high scorer was Derrick Wilson with 11 points. Like Fischer chipped in 10. Marquette edged Villanova 31-30 on the boards. Marquette had 12 assists and committed 22 turnovers. Marquette finished its disappointing season with a record of 13-19.

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Villanova (30-2) returns to action at 7PM tomorrow night (Friday, March 13) taking on the 4th seeded Providence Friars (22-10) in the semifinals.  Providence advanced to the semifinals by pasting St. John’s 74-57. Last year, the Friars won the Big East crown by beating Creighton.

Also of note this week, Josh Hart was named 6th man of the year in the Big East, Ryan Arcidiacono was named Big East co-player of the year, and coach Jay Wright was named Big East coach of the year. Darrun Hilliard, along with Arcidiacono was named to the first team all-Big East.

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