Milwaukee, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off a demoralizing loss, the fourth-ranked Villanova Wildcats try to get back in the right frame of mind as they hit the road to battle the Marquette Golden Eagles in Big East Conference action on Saturday afternoon.
Villanova had been cruising right along, winning 16 of its first 17 games and steadily climbing the national polls, but then came Monday's visit from Doug McDemott and the Creighton Bluejays. The Wildcats had no answer for the 3- point shooting clinic the Bluejays put on, as they dropped a 96-68 decision. The setback was Villanova's first in conference (5-1), as well as its first in front of a favorable crowd (9-1).
Marquette has been inconsistent this season, logging an 11-8 overall record, which includes a 3-3 league ledger. The Golden Eagles have performed well at home (8-1), and they haven't strung together consecutive wins since wining back-to-back games over IUPUI and Ball State on Dec. 14 and 17, respectively. Marquette won at Georgetown in its most recent outing, 80-72, in overtime.
Villanova owns a 12-9 series advantage over Marquette, but is just 1-3 in Milwaukee since the Golden Eagles joined the Big East back in 2005.
The teams will get together again in Philadelphia on March 2 to complete the regular-season series.
Creighton set a new Big East record by nailing 21 3-pointers in Monday's rout of Villanova in Philadelphia, as Ethan Wragge drained nine treys and McDermott added five more. For the Wildcats, James Bell hit five 3-pointers on his way to 19 points, while JayVaughn Pinkston tacked on 11 and Darrun Hilliard added 10 of his own, but 'Nova shot just 39.7 percent from the field overall.
For the season, Villanova is still averaging a robust 80.6 ppg thanks to typical shooting efforts of .451 overall and .345 from beyond the arc. Defensively, the club is allowing 67.1 ppg, with foes converting just 39.1 percent of their total shots, with the 3-pointer falling at a 36.2 percent clip. Pinkston (15.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Bell (14.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Hilliard (13.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.9 apg) are all averaging in double figures for coach Jay Wright's club, and it will be interesting to see how well they respond after Monday's debacle.
Davante Gardner poured in 20 points to pace five players in double figures, as Marquette outlasted Georgetown in overtime earlier in the week. Steve Taylor came off the bench to contribute 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds, while Jake Thomas hit four 3-pointers on his way to 12 points, John Dawson had a dozen as well, and Jamil Wilson finished with a line of 10 points, six boards, five assists and three blocks. Gardner had five helpers as well, and Dawson handed out four for a team that went 7-of-17 from beyond the arc and 21-of-25 at the free-throw line. The Hoyas were held to 37.7 field goal efficiency.
Gardner (14.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) continues to pace the Golden Eagles in both scoring and rebounding, while getting help from Wilson (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg), but not much from anyone else. Six others average between 5.1 and 9.2 ppg, but the team is more about playing tough defense as evidenced by the fact that opponents are netting only 64.0 ppg in hitting 39.5 percent of their total shots.