MILWAUKEE – Another game against a top-10 Big East opponent. Another lead with a minute left. And another heartbreak loss for Marquette.
That has been the story so far for the Golden Eagles, who fell to No. 8 Villanova, 74-72, and opened up the 2010 Big East season 0-2 for the second time in five years.
The Golden Eagles had their chances late, but the 12-1 Wildcats escaped with a thrilling 74-72 victory in front of 18,093 fans at the Bradley Center.
"This is a great road win against a very, very good team," said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "This is a really valued road victory in the Big East."
Down two points with 18 seconds left, Scottie Reynolds scored the last two of his game-high 23 points with a jumper in the lane that put Villanova up 73-72.
"It's great to have seniors down the stretch," Wright said. "Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding were huge for us."
"You gotta' kill us to beat us," said Reynolds, who also added a personal 8-0 run of his own in the second half. "You have to have that mentality that no one was going to stop us tonight."
Marquette then found forward Jimmy Butler in the lane for a lay-up opportunity with just over three seconds left. In traffic, Butler appeared to receive contact from two Villanova defenders and missed what would have been the game-winning layup.
"We set a double ball screen and Jimmy slipped it," Williams said of the game's final play. "Jimmy was wide open 19 inches from the goal and he missed it. It was a perfect pass (to him).
"We came up short and we didn't finish the game. That's my fault."
Marquette jumped out to a 23-13 lead midway through the first half on the heels of four three-pointers by four different players. But MU shot just 5-of-18 for the rest of the period and Villanova took a 35-34 lead into the locker room at intermission.
The lead changed hands 10 times, with nine ties, in an up and down second half. Marquette led for much of the second half, sitting on the ball and taking shots with just seconds left on the shot clock. The Golden Eagles relied on a similar strategy in Tuesday's last-second lost to West Virginia, and Buzz Williams insisted that Marquette had to limit Villanova's possessions, especially late in the game.
"The more possessions there are in a game, the ledger goes towards Villanova," Williams said. "We want to play ball control football at times because we cannot just trade baskets. If we play in short intervals on both sides of the floor, they would have smacked us."
MU forward Lazar Hayward stuffed the stat box again with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Noticeably frustrated after the game, the senior Hayward is in uncharted waters in his four years at Marquette with the Golden Eagles now dropping to 9-5 overall.
Mo Acker launches a three
"I never look at the box score and say, ‘Wow, I had a good game,'" remarked Hayward. "I want to win. It's a long, long way in the Big East. We have to keep getting better. We lost by three points to two top teams. I am pretty sure things are going to turn around."