Down three points with 10:08 to go in The Pavillion, Steve Taylor, Jr. grabbed an offensive rebound for the Golden Eagles. Seven seconds later, Junior Cadougan committed one of his five turnovers, leading to a layup by Villanova’s Tony Chennault.
From then on, Marquette was out of luck.
The problems began right after tipoff. Seven minutes into the game, the scoreboard read 8-4 in favor of the Wildcats, but the way Marquette started, it could have been worse.
Buzz Williams said he felt from the get-go that his team’s effort was not where it should have been.
“We win because we play hard,” Williams said. “Tonight we didn’t play hard. When you give the other team the ball 19 times and the winner is the first to 60, that’s not hard enough.”
In their first 10 possessions, the Golden Eagles turned the ball over three times and missed four field goals. The Wildcats, luckily, had offensive issues of their own, thanks to good play on the part of the Marquette defense.
In the end, Marquette did not have enough to overcome another sloppy ball-handling performance on the road, as it allowed Villanova to grab 17 points off turnovers.
In the first 30 minutes, the Golden Eagles played a back-and-forth game, keeping pace with one of the Big East’s deadliest home teams. The largest lead by either squad had been a measly five points in the first half.
In the final 10 minutes, as Marquette’s defense tired out and the Wildcats started knocking down shots, the Golden Eagles’ ball control did not seem to get any better.
Cadougan’s play has been a key part of the team’s success in conference play, and while consistently contributing in the scoring department, the senior point guard has struggled to hold onto the ball on the road.
He led the team in points with 12 but also led in turnovers with five. Vander Blue and Trent Lockett combined for seven more miscues in the losing effort.
“We struggled offensively,” Cadougan said. “We were thinking too much.”
It did not help that Blue was ice-cold by his standards, going two for eight from the field and finishing with just seven points. Usual stalwart Davante Gardner also played poorly, scoring one field goal in just 11 minutes off the bench.
In short, the 60-56 loss wasn’t a solid display of Marquette basketball, or at least the style of basketball that’s brought the Golden Eagles success this season.
Fluid ball movement and working inside-out has been important in big conference wins. In Philadelphia, Marquette did win the battle of the boards 37-24 and outscore the Wildcats in the paint 28-24, but it could do little with that paint presence consistently.
Darrun Hilliard caught fire, knocking down a three-point dagger to make it 54-43 with 3:32 to go. He finished with 22, including two other devastating makes from beyond the arc.
Cadougan responded with three of his team’s last four field goals, but it was too little, too late. A few defensive lapses at the other end led to easy Villanova answers, courtesy of Mouphtaou Yarou.