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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Guarding pick-and-roll, off-ball movement vital to success against Villanova

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Duane Wilson hit two clutch free throws in last year’s upset against Jalen Brunson No. 1 Villanova.

For most of its BIG EAST schedule, Marquette has struggled with guarding teams that employ an excess of off-ball and pick and roll movement.

When No. 1 Villanova comes to the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Sunday, Marquette will see that again. The Wildcat’s offensive leader Jalen Brunson is one of the most prolific point guards in all of college basketball. Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski referred to Brunson as “the top point guard in the country.”

“There’s not a game where he doesn’t significantly make the people around him better in so many ways,” Wojo said. “Obviously he can score the ball, but he runs their team. I mean, he’s like a coach on the floor and he’s as good as there is at that position in college basketball.”

Through eight conference games, Marquette has given up 39 points in the paint per game. That accounts for more than half of the 75.7 points per game Marquette has allowed since the start of BIG EAST play.

The easiest buckets have come off cuts and pick-and-rolls, resulting in open shots. Marquette tried to replicate those same tactics on the offensive end in its 89-70 loss to Xavier, frequently employing on-ball screens. It hasn’t been nearly as successful for Marquette, however.

“I don’t think we screened very well (against Xavier) to be quite frank with you,” Wojo said. “We did not set up our screens well, and teams are going to play you hard, and teams are going to be locked in. You have to be more precise in both how you screen and how you set up the screen. It’s not a matter of running new or using different stuff, it’s a matter of executing the stuff we have at a higher level.”

Wojo and company will return to the drawing board to figure out the best way to stop Villanova. In last year’s upset, switching to a 1-3-1 zone defense was enough to throw the Wildcats off. Sophomore Markus Howard said that at the end of the day, it comes down to effort to limit Villanova’s points in the paint.

“From an execution standpoint, (Villanova) is a great team,” Howard said. “They are coached really well, and so we’re going to try and find any way possible to slow them down.”

Fellow sophomore Sacar Anim placed a big emphasis on stopping Villanova big men Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman.

“That’s very tough,” Anim said. “Whoever is on the court one through five, whoever is on the floor, those are the guys that can score. They are all great players, and we just have to play together and have each other’s back. That’s the biggest thing. They like to do a lot of back cuts, so we will have to help each other out.”

“They had way too many easy points in the first game, so we have to make things tough for them,” Anim continued. “They are a great team and they are going to get some buckets, but as long as we can make things tough on them, we will have a chance.”

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