MU hosts Villanova on National Marquette Day

Steve Wojciechowski’s squad will try to reverse its losing ways against No. 6/6 Villanova on National Marquette Day. The nationally televised home contest gives the Golden Eagles, who’ve tasted defeat in eight of their last nine Big East games, an opportunity to pull what would be a huge upset.

The Time: The Marquette University men’s basketball team (11-14, 3-10 BIG EAST) returns to action on Saturday, Feb. 21 when the team hosts Villanova (24-2, 11-2 BIG EAST) at 1:30 p.m. CT at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

TV: FOX will feature Marquette’s 22nd national television broadcast of the campaign, with Tim Brando (play-by-play) and Jim Jackson (analyst) calling the action.

The Series: Dates back to 1960

The Wildcats have won 15 of the 24 contests played between Marquette and Villanova including the last four. The Golden Eagles are 4-4 against the Wildcats in Milwaukee, and lost last season’s matchup in a thrilling 94-85 overtime decision.

The two sides met earlier this month at the Wells Fargo Center where Villanova overcame a sluggish start to rout Marquette 70-52. The Golden Eagles were able to grab an early lead thanks to an uncharacteristic five Wildcat turnovers in their first seven possessions, but Jay Wright’s team righted itself and built a double-digit advantage before halftime.

Villanova Wildcats

The Wildcats average 74.7 points per game (32nd in the country) and just 11.2 turnovers. They move the ball well as a team (15.7 assists per game, 21st in the country) with junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono and redshirt junior guard Dylan Ennis each averaging over three dishes per contest.

Ennis will take the Bradley Center floor just two days after his younger brother, Tyler, was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Michael Carter-Williams and Miles Plumlee in a late NBA deadline deal.

Senior guard Darrun Hilliard leads Villanova in scoring with 14.3 points per game, while Arcidiacono also averages double-digits (10.0 points per). Hilliard has the hot hand, averaging 20.0 points per game in his last four contests, and Arcidiacono led all scorers with 18 points, including four 3-pointers, in the Wildcats’ victory over Marquette earlier this season.

Behind Hilliard and Arcidiacono, Villanova boasts four players with scoring averages over nine points per game in redshirt senior forward Jayvaughn Pinkston, sophomore guard Josh Hart, junior forward Daniel Ochefu and Ennis.

Marquette Golden Eagles

Marquette has played with seven players since leading scorer Matt Carlino went down with a concussion in the Feb. 4 loss to the Wildcats. The graduate senior’s status is day-to-day, but he has a chance to return just in time for the rematch, and he may be extra motivated to make a statement.

Midway through the second half of the defeat, Carlino was drawn into the air by a pump fake from Arcidiacono, and after colliding with the guard, flipped over and landed on his head. Carlino has missed three contests since, and made it known to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez he was upset with the play.

“I wasn't trying to get a call or anything, I knew it was a foul, but I was like, ‘That's a dirty play,’” Carlino said. “You have the ability to, if a guy's in the air, to get contact and (not flip him over). I have some choice words for that.”

Carlino’s return would be welcomed by the Golden Eagles who will need all hands on deck to compete with a deep, multi-dimensional Villanova offense. Marquette has lacked a dependable 3-point shooter in his absence and missed the spacing and playmaking ability he’s provided this season.

With or without Carlino, Marquette will have to play its best defensive game of the season just to hang around, and it will have to sustain high pressure for the full 40 minutes.

Playing a complete game has been anything but customary for this season’s team, as the Golden Eagles have shown an unfortunate trend of ending the first half poorly and starting the second half just as poorly.

For Marquette to form a consistent attack, it will need solid contributions from both the post and backcourt in the same game, a rare feat for this team.

The Golden Eagles were able to outscore the Wildcats 26-16 in the paint in the previous matchup, and despite losing the battle of the boards 44-38, they competed well under the basket.

Redshirt sophomore Luke Fischer has struggled to regain the form he began his Marquette career with, and will hope to rebound from a frustrating outing (nine points, five rebounds, three turnovers) against the Wildcats last time around.

Junior Steve Taylor Jr., and freshman Sandy Cohen III provided a spark in Marquette’s loss at Creighton last Saturday combining for 19 points. While both have been highly inconsistent, they could play key roles Saturday if they can carry anything over from the performance.

If/when the scoring droughts come, as they have time and time again, the defense will have to clamp down and hope to prevent the Wildcats from building too much distance.

A Look Ahead: Marquette finishes up regular season play with two more road games (Feb. 25 at No. 19 Butler, Mar. 1 at Providence) and two more home games (Mar. 4 vs. St. John’s, Mar. 7 vs DePaul) before the Big East Tournament begins on March 11.

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