Marquette Golden Eagles (14-8, 5-4 Big East) vs. # 12 Villanova Wildcats (17-4, 5-3 Big East)
The Pavilion – Villanova, Pennsylvania
Wednesday, 6 PM CST
TV: ESPNU – Carter Blackburn (play-by-play) and LaPhonso Ellis (analyst)
After defeating the only team that they had yet to beat in Big East play, Marquette returns to action to face a Villanova team that has given them some of their closest and most entertaining games since joining the conference six seasons ago.
The Wildcats come into Wednesday evening's match up on a two-game losing streak, and losers of three-of-their-last-four games. While two of those defeats came at the hands of upper-echelon teams in Connecticut and Georgetown, last Wednesday's 15 point drubbing in Providence was far from expected. Despite this rough stretch, Villanova – like so many in the Big East – finds itself within striking distance of the conference lead just two and half games out.
Leading the attack is pre-season 1st team all-Big East selection, Corey Fisher. The senior guard is arguably the best floor general in the league and has a knack for knocking down big shots – see January's contest at the Bradley Center last year. Fisher is the Wildcats leading scorer, dishes out a team-best five assists per game and is lightning quick off the dribble.
Joining Fisher in the backcourt is another talented senior guard – Corey Stokes. This Corey is more of a traditional two-guard who likes to work off the ball and come off screens. At 6'5" Stokes has good size and is probably the Wildcats best shooter as evidenced by his 3-point field goal percentage (41.5%) and free-throw percentage (94.7 %). This season he has nine games in which he has knocked down four or more threes and thus figures to be a threat no matter where he gets the ball on the court.
Quite possibly one of Villanova's most valuable assets comes in the form of Maalik Wayns. The sophomore guard is third on the team in scoring but perhaps is more valuable distributing the ball as noted by his five assist per game average. In Wayns, Jay Wright gets another ball-handler and is afforded the luxury of being able to rest Fisher if need be. He is probably most dangerous off the dribble – here, he has the ability to blow by defenders either creating for himself or kicking to open teammates.
As a team, the Wildcats are a quick, fast-paced team with good length. Villanova likes to get up and down the court and will also throw several different defensive looks at a team during a given game. While Villanova's guards get all the praise – and rightfully so – the relatively unnoticed big men of the Wildcats have done a yeoman's job all year. Antonio Pena is a long versatile player who can play inside-out and Mouphtaou Yarou serves as a physical presence around the basket, together working to make Villanova a threat from both the outside and inside.
If Marquette is to be in it down the stretch, they must have a much more solid defensive showing than on Saturday versus Syracuse. The Golden Eagles will have to not only hound the Wildcat guards – especially Stokes – but also must be effective crashing the boards. Offensively, the most pressing issue for Marquette will be taking care of the ball, especially against the press later in the game.
I would expect a relatively high scoring game given both teams' preferred style of play and I would also expect it to be a close affair (last three games decided by 4, 2, and 2 points). Look for Marquette to continue to attack the basket but also don't be surprised if they try and throw the ball in the post in an attempt to draw fouls on the Villanova bigs. This game will definitely come down to Marquette's ability – or inability – to make good decisions with the ball and withstand a run by the opposition. If Marquette can do these two things they will likely be in a position to win the game.
Villanova Head Coach: Jay Wright (220-104 10th season, 342-187 17th overall)
Probable Wildcat Starters
G – Corey Fisher--6'1" 185 lb Senior--15.6 ppg, 5.0 apg
G – Corey Stokes--6'5" 195 lb Senior--15.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg
G – Dominic Cheek--6'6" 185 lb Sophomore--7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
F – Antonio Pena--6'8" 235 lb Senior--10.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg
F/C – Mouphtaou Yarou--6'10" 250 lb Sophomore--8.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg
Key Wildcat Reserves
G – Maalik Wayns--6'2" 185 lb Sophomore--14.1 ppg, 5.0 apg)
F – Isaiah Armwood--6'8" 205 lb Sophomore--2.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg
F – Maurice Sutton--6'11" 225 lb Sophomore--3.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Preview: No. 12 Villanova
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