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MU’s comeback attempt falls short 75-70 at Villanova

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Instead of blowing a second half lead, as has been the case for many of Marquette’s  Big East games, the Golden Eagles fought back from down 14 points in the second half, but fell short at Villanova 75-70 Wednesday.

Marquette was down 34-25 at the half and coach Buzz Williams said his team played with a sense of urgency that it needs to play with all the time, but failed to do so in the first half.

Villanova’s 6-foot-10-inch sophomore forward Mouphtaou Yarou may have been the Golden Eagles’ kryptonite as he paced the Wildcats in points (18). He was also a strong presence inside that helped force three Marquette post players – junior forward Jae Crowder, freshman forward Davante Gardner, and redshirt sophomore center Chris Otule – into two first half fouls.

Crowder, who has been a force inside for Marquette throughout much of the Big East season, fouled out with nine points and four rebounds with 4:19 left in the game.

Williams said in a postgame interview on 540 ESPN Radio Milwaukee that the foul trouble those three were in changed the game for Marquette in a bad way.

“When those three guys have three fouls…we are out of sorts on both ends,” Williams said. “You have to defend without fouling and we did a poor job of that, particularly in the first half.”

Junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom and senior forward Jimmy Butler led the way for Marquette with 15 points each. Johnson-Odom’s hot three-point-shooting-hand went cold fast after he hit his first shot beyond the arc in the first 30 seconds of the game but proceeded to go 0-of-5 beyond the arc the rest of the way.

Johnson-Odom wasn’t the only shooter struggling from deep. The team entered the game shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc in Big East games but shot 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) against Villanova.

Aggressiveness, which was vital for Marquette’s 76-70 victory over Syracuse last Saturday, worked against the Golden Eagles against the Wildcats. The Golden Eagles attempted less free throws (14)  than Villanova made for the entire game (29). Both teams hit their free throws too: Marquette shot 92.9 percent, 13-of-14, and Villanova shot 87.9 percent, 29-of-33.

“You can’t win when a team scores 40 percent of its points from the free throw line, it’s statistically impossible,” Williams said.

While Marquette didn’t take many free throw attempts, the team did hit 13-of-14 (92.9 percent).

Williams, who has stressed that his team needs to drop its defensive field goal percentage down to 39, cannot be happy that his defense allowed Villanova to shoot 43.8 percent, 21-of-48, from the field.

Williams was happy with his team’s push to get the ball inside in the second half. He thought the team had a paint touch on every possession in the second half, something it struggled to do in the first half.

Marquette now gets its second weekend bye of the Big East season and will prepare for its next game against South Florida in Tampa, Fla. this Tuesday.

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