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Another Slow Start for Villanova leads to 5th straight loss | Villanova vs. #9 Marquette Recap

Written by on February 1, 2024

Despite a great comeback, Villanova falls to #9 Marquette, 85-80, for their 5th consecutive loss. The Golden Eagles took a 20-point lead with five minutes left in the first half, and the Wildcats battled all the way back to take a small lead; however, Tyler Kolek carried Marquette to victory in the final few minutes of the second half. Villanova is now 11-10 overall and 4-6 in Big East play. They are quickly falling apart and dropping further down in the conference standings.

Villanova’s Eric Dixon shoots a mid range jumper against #9 Marquette at the Finneran Pavilion.

Villanova finished the game with a 39% conversion rate on shots from the field with a 34.4% from behind the arc. The Wildcats made all 17 free throw attempts against the Golden Eagles. They also won the turnover battle and tied Marquette in points in the paint (28), which was a huge issue in the first loss to the Golden Eagles. But, once again, the main difference was the slow start for Villanova that allowed Marquette to build a 20-point lead even without one of their best players in Kam Jones.

Eric Dixon and TJ Bamba both scored 24 points. Mark Armstrong had another excellent game against the Golden Eagles with 16 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. But it was not enough to overcome the early large deficit. Hakim Hart started in place of Armstrong for the second game in a row. However, Hart did not score and played just 11 minutes. Armstrong did his damage in almost 33 minutes of game action.

The player of the game was definitely Tyler Kolek. Kolek stepped up in the absence of Jones for 32 total points, six rebounds, and nine assists. Marquette also had four other players in double-digits: Oso Ighodaro, David Joplin, Stevie Mitchell, and Chase Ross. The Golden Eagles shot 50% from the field and 46% from three against the Wildcats.

Game Recap

First Half: Another Slow Start for Villanova

Marquette started the game with 11 unanswered points in the first 4:35 seconds. Villanova finally got on the board with an Eric Dixon layup. Tyler Kolek and the Golden Eagles continued to knock down shots and extend their lead. They took a 23-6 lead with 11:38 left in the first after a Kolek three-pointer.

Ben Gold, who started for the injured Kam Jones, hit a three-point jumper with five minutes left in the first half to give Marquette a 20-point lead, 37-17. The Wildcats had no answer for Marquette’s pick and roll offense and Villanova’s offense was inefficient and unorganized.

Enter Mark Armstrong and TJ Bamba. Armstrong and Bamba quickly provided a spark for Villanova at the end of the first half. With a 14-2 run, Villanova was able to trim the Golden Eagles’ lead to just eight points at halftime. They sprinted into the locker room after Armstrong crushed a deep three as time was expiring.

Second Half: Wildcats battle back, but Kolek leads Marquette to victory

Villanova used that momentum and energy to start the second half on a positive note. Justin Moore scored six quick points to put Villanova within one with 15:51 left in regulation. Then, the Wildcats took their first lead of the day, 48-47, thanks to an Eric Dixon layup in the paint. Tyler Burton extended the Cats’ lead to four points with a three-pointer of his own. The Finneran Pavilion was rocking, and spirits were high.

However, in this crazy rollercoaster ride of a season for Villanova, the offense went silent, and the defense collapsed. Kolek responded with five quick points in addition to some free throws by Chase Ross to put Marquette back in the driver’s seat with 11 minutes left to play. Marquette continued to easily score and built their lead to 12 points. It seemed like Kolek could not miss from behind the arc.

Dixon and Armstrong put together a nice run to get Villanova within four points with 4:35 left, but the Wildcats could not get enough stops on defense. Kolek would seal the victory with efficient free throw shooting.

Villanova has not defeated Marquette since 2021. They are 0-4 against the Golden Eagles in Coach Neptune’s tenure as head coach.

My Thoughts

Even with the 20-point early deficit, Villanova deserves credit for battling back with a good effort. However, at this point in the season, they need every win they can get, and the “good effort” mentality is getting harder for Nova Nation to accept. There are games left with about the second half of the conference schedule remaining, but Villanova must put together a big winning streak to get back into the conversation. The Wildcats’ hardest part of their schedule may be over, but it still does not get much easier.

The Road Ahead + WXVU Live Coverage

The Wildcats have another chance at victory on Sunday evening at 6pm against Providence at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly. WXVU will have live coverage of Villanova vs. Providence beginning at 5:30pm with the pregame show.