Saturday, January 02, 2010

Marquette Suffers Another Heartbreaker to Villanova, as Reynolds, #8 Wildcats Escape, 74-72

To the Wildcat faithful-

Full story coming...

UPDATE - Full story is now here...

The Marquette Golden Eagles, when they face Villanova, must wonder what they must have done to offend the basketball gods.  On March 12, 2009, the Wildcats - in one of the most thrilling endings in school history - ousted Marquette in the Big East tournament quarterfinals at the buzzer, as Dwayne Anderson's shot rolled in...

Fast forward to 2010.  A new year, and along with it - perhaps a new fate against Villanova.

Granted, Marquette had lost three of the best players in school history, all ranked in the top eight on the all-time scoring list.  Likewise, the Wildcats were ranked #8, heading into the game.  But unlike last year, this game was in Milwaukee, in a very difficult environment for a visitor.

And although there was a new calendar, the first game of 2010 for both teams did little to assure the Marquette fans that anything had changed.  Villanova imposed yet another - as one of the Marquette bloggers put it last March - "soul-crushing loss" on the Golden Eagles, on Saturday, January 2, 2010...

Anderson may have graduated - but his departure wasn't enough to save Marquette from another heartbreaking loss.  This time, Marquette knows how Pittsburgh felt last year in the Elite Eight.  The Wildcats rallied down the stretch to escape, 74-72, on yet another big shot from Scottie Reynolds...

What makes the loss even more unbearable, is the fact that Marquette is now 0-4 this season, in games decided by less than four points.

In light of the above-

The only genuine solace for Marquette, is the fact that they will receive another crack at the Wildcats, on Saturday, January 9, at the Pavilion, as the two teams have an opportunity to face each other twice this season.  They ended up facing each other three times last season, twice in the regular season (each team winning at home), and then, of course, in the aforementioned legendary Big East tournament quarterfinal.

(It seems puzzling as to why the Big East would schedule two teams to face each other twice in a week, particularly since they are so geographically distant from each other.  It would be more understandable, if it were Villanova/Seton Hall, or Villanova/Rutgers, or Villanova/St. John's, in the course of a week...)

Another scheduling quirk came from the fact that this was the second consecutive year, that the two schools have facing each other in the Bradley Center, in the first game of the calendar year - in fact, last year, it was on New Year's Day of 2009.  In that game, Marquette triumphed, 79-72.

And so Villanova improved to 1-0 Big East, 12-1 overall; Marquette fell to 0-2 Big East, 9-5 overall.  Adding to Marquette's woes, was their narrow loss @ ranked West Virginia in their Big East opener.  Marquette appears to be a bubble team this season.  Accordingly, wins over two ranked conference opponents, would have added a great deal of weight to their case to the NCAA selection committee, come March. 

Looking at the Box Score

The senior star was once again the leader for the Wildcats.  Reynolds had an outstanding afternoon.  He led all scorers with 23 points, on 8-12 shooting from the floor, including 3-5 from three-point range - and he did it, in only 30 minutes. By his standards, he did have a slightly subpar 4-6 from the line - with one miss coming after his game-winning shot.  Had it dropped, it would have given the Wildcats a three-point rather than a two-point advantage, something that would have been enormous, given that Marquette was only going to be able to take a three-point shot at the buzzer.

Had it not been for the heart-stopping ending from Reynolds, the main storyline of the game would have - unquestionably - been the surprise explosion from freshman Maalik Wayns.   Once off the bench, Wayns simply detonated inside the Bradley Center, scoring 16 points, on 5-8 shooting from the floor, and a near-perfect 6-7 from the line.  He was Villanova's second-leading scorer after Reynolds, his 16 points matched his high for his young career - and he did it all, in just 26 minutes of action.

The offense from Wayns was particularly welcome, given the Wildcats' struggle to score in the early going, as Marquette took an early lead.  Entering the game at the 15:17 mark, he had already reached double figures by halftime, with 10 points.

The third Wildcat to reach double figures, was senior guard Reggie Redding.  Redding, playing in just his third game, due to his first-semester suspension, added 11 points, and more critically, eight rebounds (a fantastic total for a guard), plus three assists against one turnover.  He didn't have much accuracy this afternoon from the floor, shooting just 3-11 and missing both three-point attempts.  But he did convert five of his eight free throw attempts, including some badly needed in the final two minutes.

The strong performances from Reynolds, Redding, and Wayns, helped to overcome the struggles by some of the other Wildcats.  Antonio Pena, who is being looked at more and more as a scoring option underneath, scored only four points in 26 minutes of action.  He did so on just 2-6 shooting and a missed free throw, although he did collect five rebounds.

Taylor King and Corey Stokes were both saddled with foul trouble - both finished with four fouls -  and neither had their usual impact as a result.  There was also a sharp contrast in the two players, while they were on the floor.  King played well when he was on the court- half a dozen points and rebounds in only 20 minutes.

However, Stokes did not.  The Bayonne Bomber - in his 19 minutes - scored just two points.   He was just 1-5 from the floor, missed his only three-point attempt, and did not reach the line.  He added two rebounds, an assist and a steal, but the Wildcats really need him to provide some scoring punch.

ESPN2 analyst - and former St. John's coach - Fran Franschilla accurately noted that Corey Fisher was not seeing much action in the second half, despite the fact that King and Stokes were in foul trouble, and Fisher himself was not.  Fisher saw only 21 minutes and played well, scoring half a dozen points on 3-7 shooting, grabbing four rebounds and dealing four assists.  It seems fair to say that Wayns was getting some of Fisher's minutes - which was logical, given the torrid pace Wayns was setting.

Looking at the rest of the bench:

Freshman Isaiah Armwood did see some significant time - 14 minutes - and added four points on 2-3 shooting, plus a pair of rebounds.  Fellow freshman Dominic Cheek saw only seven minutes, scoring one basket, and also had a pair of rebounds.  Redshirt freshman Maurice Sutton made a cameo appearance for a single minute, but did not record any statistics.

The Marquette Side of the Box Score

The Golden Eagles have a very short bench: only seven players saw action, and only six played more than nine minutes.  It's a lot of pressure on the starters, but Marquette had a very well-distributed offense.  No fewer than four Golden Eagles finished in double figures:
  • Swingman Jimmy Butler led Marquette with 19 points on 5-12 shooting and 8-9 from the line, while playing all but one minute;
  • Forward Lazar Hayward nearly pulled it out for Marquette, finishing with a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds;
  • Guard Dwight Buycks scored a season-high 15 points, although he did it on just 5-14 shooting;
  • Senior guard David Cubillan scored 10 points on 4-7 shooting; it was just the third time this season that he has reached double figures.
Looking at the team statistics:

Turnovers were a rarity - Villanova had only seven, while Marquette had just eight.

Villanova - in a rarity for a Jay Wright squad - eschewed the three-point shot Saturday afternoon.  The Wildcats took only ten triples, a season-low; the lowest previous number had been 15, against Drexel.  They also converted only three, also a season-low. 

Although they struggled from beyond the arc, the Wildcats did shoot the ball very well in the interior, making 47.5% of their field goal attempts.  They were able to win the game at the foul line down the stretch, going 15-22 (68.2%) for the contest.

What really hurt Marquette as a team, was their struggle to hit three-pointers.  The Golden Eagles took 24 attempts and made just seven- 29.2%.  They did offset it by an exceptional performance at the line, where they went 21-26 - 80.8%.  They also outrebounded Villanova, 36-33.

The Game Action

The game was very well played and very exciting to watch, as both teams turned in strong performances.  There were 11 ties and 13 lead changes throughout the contest.  In just the second half, there were 10 lead changes.  The two teams were never separated by more than four points, at any point, in the final 29 minutes of the game.  Despite its victory, Villanova's largest lead was only four points, 55-51.

The tightening was made that much more exciting, because of the lead to which Marquette rocketed, early in the contest.  The Golden Eagles led 23-13, with 13:43 to play in the first half, but the Wildcats responded with a 13-2 run, and King gave Villanova its first lead at 26-25, with 5:47 to play until halftime.  Villanova clung to a 35-34 lead at intermission.

Next Up For the Wildcats

Villanova plays its first home game of 2010, as they host the DePaul Blue Demons on Wednesday, January 6, at the Pavilion.  Tip-off is at 8 PM.

Go Wildcats!



Anonymous said...

Exciting game to watch. Wayns was really something.

REynolds is a sight to behold. I've never seen anyone draw contact the way he does -- and he somehow still manages to put the ball in the bucket. His final shot for the win was almost a replay of the shot that got us into the Final Four last year.


Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, Seamus-

Thanks for the comment. I had also noticed the parallel between Reynolds's shot in this game, and The Shot against Pitt in the Elite Eight last season. He does have a remarkable ability to float a layup far above the rim, while drawing contact...

Go Wildcats!