Marquette 74, Villanova 72
When: 8:00 PM ET, Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) — The consensus No. 1 ranking was there for the taking Tuesday night for the Villanova Wildcats, the top-ranked team in The Associated Press poll but No. 2 in the coaches’ poll.
But the Wildcats couldn’t cash in on West Virginia’s upset of Kansas; they blew a 13-point lead over the final six minutes as Marquette rallied for a 74-72 victory in front of a spirited crowd of 14,210 at the Bradley Center.
Katin Reinhardt led Marquette (14-6, 3-5 Big East) with 19 points and was a decisive force in the closing moments. He hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:04 to play then broke a 72-all tie with a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left.
“Katin was terrific,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “That group that closed the game for us was phenomenal. They made a lot of really big plays. I’m proud of our guys. They were terrific tonight.”
Villanova (19-2, 7-2) held Marquette to 34 percent shooting in the first half but the Golden Eagles connected at a 69 percent clip in the second half, including 7 of 11 3-pointers.
“It’s nice to not have to score 95 points to win a game,” Wojciechowski said. “We won the game primarily because of our defense.”
The Wildcats attempted 34 3-pointers but made just six and after going 15-for-29 from the floor in the first half. They made only 31.6 percent of their shots in the second and went 2-for-13 and 0-for-8 from beyond the arc over the final 6 minutes and 41 seconds.
“I think we settled way too much,” said Villanova guard Josh Hart, who scored 16 points but was limited by foul trouble down the stretch. “Some were good, clean, uncontested shots and others were a little more contested. I think we could have passed up on those, got into the lane and found our teammates open shots.”
Villanova was in control for the first 35 minutes. The Wildcats led by 15 at the half and drew two quick fouls on Marquette’s Markus Howard to open the second, sending the Golden Eagles’ top shooter to the bench with 19 minutes to play.
He didn’t return until 8:43 remained but lasted just 20 seconds before picking up his fifth foul and left the game with Marquette trailing by 13.
But just like that, Villanova went ice cold and opened the door for a Marquette comeback.
A driving layup from Duane Wilson made it a six-point game with 3:50 to play and Sam Hauser cut the deficit to 68-65 on a 3-pointer with 2:51 left, capping off a 10-0 run.
“You’ve got to put a whole 40 minutes together,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Sometimes you get on the road and a team gets hot. If you don’t finish the 40 minutes, they’ll get you.”
Reinhardt tied it at 70 on a 3-pointer with a minute to play and two free throws from Wilson put the Golden Eagles up 72-70.
“I missed a free throw in the first half,” Reinhardt said. “I was mad at myself the whole game for missing that free throw but I knew I was going to get another chance. I didn’t know when it was going to come but it came at the most crucial time.”
A Hart tip-in tied the score again, but Reinhardt hit two free throws with 11 seconds to play and Darryl Reynolds’ tip-in fell short, falling into the hands of Hauser as time expired.
“There were a number of breaking points throughout the game when teams that I’ve had here, including this one, would have not kept fighting,” Wojciechowski said. “But the guys, they kept fighting and in the end, they found a way to win. It wasn’t exactly how we drew it up but our kids found a way to win.”
NOTES: The victory was the second for Marquette over a top-10 team in the last week; the Golden Eagles handed No. 7 Creighton a 102-91 loss last Saturday in Omaha. … The Wildcats had won five in a row and at 19-1 tied the 2009-10 team for the best start in program history through 21 games. … Marquette was facing the nation’s top-ranked team for the 12th time in program history. The Golden Eagles are now 2-10 against teams atop one of the two major polls. … Villanova had won nine consecutive meetings with Marquette, including a 93-81 decision earlier this month in Philadelphia. The Wildcats lead the series 20-10 and own a 15-8 mark since the Golden Eagles joined the Big East in 2006.