Villanova spoils National Marquette Day

Henry Ellenson sets Marquette freshman scoring record

Johnson was perfect from the field in the first half, making his first five baskets (Photo by Ben Erickson/

The Golden Eagles hung around with No. 1 Villanova on National Marquette Day, but just like the last matchup, talent eventually prevailed. The Wildcats spoiled the party in the packed BMO Harris Bradley Center, defeating Marquette 89-79.

“They’re the type of team that makes you pay for every mistake,” said Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski. “That’s why they are a team that could go to the Final Four.”

Jajuan Johnson was Marquette’s most consistent player on both sides of the floor. He shot 8-for-10 for 19 points. He also snatched five steals, one less than his career high set against Chicago State. Once he completed steals he was excellent in transition offense, powering his way to the basket.

Henry Ellenson etched his name into the record books with a free throw in the first half, setting a new Marquette freshman scoring record. He needed six points today to pass Dominic James’ record of 473 points set during the 2005-06 season. Ellenson finished with 13 points, six rebounds and two assists. Ellenson now has 481 points with two regular season games remaining.

“I don’t know if he looks at all the stats and everything, but he loves playing the game,” Wally Ellenson said. “All the accolades come to him because he’s always in the gym, always working hard and getting better every day.”

Haanif Cheatham tied Johnson with 19 points on 7-for-13. Wally Ellenson scored 11 points, the first time he’s scored double digits at Marquette.

Interior and transition defense was a serious issue, especially when it came to Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu. The pick-and-roll beat Luke Fischer multiple times for clean dunks, and forced the Golden Eagles’ center into his familiar foul issues.

“Luke seems to be in foul trouble a lot,” Wojciechowski said. “A little bit of a mystery to me, but Ochefu is a really good player. He’s a very veteran strong player. Because they surround him with four guys who are open shooters, it’s very hard to bring help. What you end up doing is you have to play him one-on-one.”

When Marquette did have the ball, Villanova used an aggressive press that gave Marquette’s guards plenty of trouble. Jay Wright said the team decided to rachet up the pressure after the struggles against Xavier, and it just happened that Villanova had a youthful group next on its schedule. Traci Carter was the most successful of the group, but he still turned the ball over five times.

“I thought it really stood our guys up,” Wojciechowski said. “We talked about attacking it to score but we never got in a rhythm against it … They create different matchups. They don’t care if a guard is on a big or a big is on a guard. They really switch and are interchangeable with their defense. For a young guy it can cause a little confusion.

The Golden Eagles weren’t the only ones turning over the ball, as Villanova’s veteran group lost possession 17 times. It was a huge factor in Marquette not allowing the Wildcats to pull too far ahead.

“Marquette is the best in our league at turning people over,” Wright said. “They’ve got young guys playing really hard, defending and scrapping.”

Marquette also shot particularly well outside of Duane Wilson, who was 1-for-8 from the field. Every Golden Eagle minus Wilson and Carter shot over 50 percent. Marquette is only the third team to shoot over 50 percent as a whole against Villanova this season.

The first half featured runs for both teams, with Marquette’s never lasting long enough to take the lead. The Golden Eagles pulled as close a three at 10-13, 32-29 and 37-34, but Villanova consistently answered. Even when Marquette played strong defense, the Wildcats would hit low percentage shots. Villanova went into the locker room up 42-37.

The game appeared to get out of hand at the start of the second half, as Villanova flirted with a 20-point lead. Henry Ellenson’s production dried up — he scored only three points on 1-for-4 shooting. Wojciechowski chalked that up to having to play him out of position due to Fischer’s fouls and Wright’s strategy.

“Every time he touched it they were sending two or three guys at him,” Wojciechowski said. “Their game plan was to make it tough for him to catch and when he did make sure there are two or three Wildcats there.”

Marquette made one final run in the last four minutes, sparked by a pair of threes from Wally Ellenson and a Johnson and one, but weren’t able to cut the lead to less than seven points.

The Golden Eagles have one final game at the Bradley Center on Tuesday, when the team will honor its only senior Michael Mache against Georgetown. The Hoyas, who are under .500 in conference play after today’s overtime loss to Butler, are fighting the Golden Eagles for a spot in the NIT.