In the span of one week, Marquette has met the No.'s 6 and 8 teams in the country – battling West Virginia on the road and Villanova at home – and has last-second defeats in two nail-biters to show for it. The Golden Eagles have stood toe-to-toe with the top teams in the conference.
"Our guys have put us in a good position to win," said Head Coach Buzz Williams, "but we've lost."
So how does MU look improve as they move deeper into a rugged Big East schedule?
Mental toughness is critical. Guard Dwight Buycks, who had an outstanding individual performance with a career high 15 points, remarked that the team has to play tough for all 40 minutes.
Though they allowed Villanova to go on several big runs late in the first half, Marquette made some good second-half adjustments to get additional paint touches and keep themselves in the game.
"The last 13 minutes of the first half we scored nine points and we couldn't stop them either," said Williams. "We did a great job in the second half of getting to the paint. That always plays the right way for us because we are able to stop the clock and get points."
In the end, Villanova scored 44 points in the paint and Marquette had just 18. Those paint touches are critical to opening up the perimeter game.
The past two games have also shown the critical importance of free-throw shooting to winning games. The Golden Eagles improved their free throw shooting to 80 percent against Villanova, but had two critical misses in the last three minutes.
It may be easy to lose confidence after two defeats like the ones MU just suffered. But Villanova coach Jay Wright doesn't think that will be the case.
"Knowing Buzz and knowing these kids, I know it's not going to break them," said Wright. "They are going to look at it like, ‘We can beat anyone and play anywhere.' It's not going to bother them at all".
Coach Williams echoed a similar sentiment:
"When you get beat, you have to be a man in how you handle it. As Coach [Bill] Parcells says, you are what your record says you are. We are 9-5 and 0-2. We can get better or we can get bitter.
"God continues to give you the same test until you pass it. Until you pass it you keep getting the same test. If we don't pass the test, we will get beat on Wednesday [against Georgetown]."
Heading into their upcoming date with the Hoyas and the back end of their home-and-home series with Villanova on January 9, the Golden Eagles now have a few resolutions for 2010.
"We need to keep working and not feel sorry for ourselves," Lazar Hayward said. "It's a marathon. We've played the top two teams in the Big East and lost by three points and we're right there."