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Marquette men take on Villanova Saturday

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Marquette men take on Villanova Saturday

Photo Vale Cardenas/ valeria.cardenas@mu.edu

Photo Vale Cardenas/ valeria.cardenas@mu.edu

Photo by Vale*foto

Photo Vale Cardenas/ valeria.cardenas@mu.edu

Photo by Vale*foto

Photo by Vale*foto

Photo Vale Cardenas/ valeria.cardenas@mu.edu

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Don’t expect Marquette to make 21 three-pointers Saturday against Villanova à la Creighton, but perhaps the Golden Eagles can use their momentum to finally earn a high-profile win.

The Golden Eagles and No. 4 Wildcats meet at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, marking the first time Marquette hosts a top-five opponent in three years. Villanova is recuperating after an embarrassing 96-68 home loss to Creighton Monday, a game in which the Bluejays shot 21-of-35 from behind the arc.

A dogged effort by the Golden Eagles Monday at Georgetown yielded their first Big East road win, evening their record to 3-3 and finding the rejuvenation they desperately sought.

Ranked 82nd in the RPI rankings as of Wednesday, Marquette is 1-6 against schools slotted 1-50 and 2-2 against teams ranked 51-100. A win over Villanova would hand the Golden Eagles their second RPI top-25 victory and raise hopes for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

“If you look at what they’ve done this year, obviously it’s remarkable the accomplishments they’ve had up until this point,” coach Buzz Williams said in a teleconference. “We have to play our absolute best just to have a chance. We’ll have our hands full for sure from the very beginning.”

Despite the shellacking Villanova endured, it still has the power to dismantle teams on both ends of the floor. The Wildcats are ranked first in the league in steals, second in scoring, second in three-pointers made and third in blocks.

JayVaughn Pinkston (15.3 ppg) leads the offensive front as the Wildcats’ starters average 57.6 points per contest. Their versatile three-point attack features four players who have made 20 or more long balls.

Center Daniel Ochefu will present issues for Marquette post players Chris Otule and Davante Gardner. The 6-foot-11-inch sophomore is beginning to establish himself as the Wildcats’ defensive anchor, averaging 1.7 blocks and 5.8 rebounds in only 19 minutes per game.

“I think that’s why Villanova has had the success they’ve had because they stretch you with the matchups that they play,” Williams said. “I think that their five-man has improved tremendously over the last year, and I think JayVaughn’s always been kind of a mismatch nightmare.”

On Marquette’s end, the duo of Steve Taylor, Jr. (14 points, eight rebounds Monday) and John Dawson (12 points, four assists) may be a critical facet for success. Dawson asserted himself as a reliable backup point guard to Derrick Wilson Monday, making a key three-pointer in overtime to stretch the lead to seven.

Taylor has seen limited minutes this season due to injury, but his efficient rebounding effort – eight in 23 minutes – showed he too can make his mark on the game when called upon. Taylor will have his hands full with Pinkston if Williams decides to play man-to-man, but he has stayed out of foul trouble this season, which should merit trust from the coaching staff.

As always, turnovers must not let the Golden Eagles get the best of them. Villanova forces opponents into 14.8 turnovers per game. Marquette did a commendable job of committing 11 miscues when considering the overtime period. Derrick Wilson and Dawson displayed some of their best control and movement all season, making only two turnovers combined in 43 minutes.

This will be the last ranked opponent Marquette faces at home, unless Creighton returns back to the polls in time for its trip to Milwaukee next month. Despite the uneasy start to the Big East slate, the atmosphere should be considerably more intense with tournament implications potentially on the line.

If it cannot escape with a win, Marquette may find relief in its short-term schedule. The Golden Eagles’ next four opponents have a combined league record of 7-16. Villanova is at the start of a three-game road trip that will also send it to Georgetown and crosstown rival Temple before returning home to face Xavier.

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