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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Stevie Mitchell puts together break out game in road win over Villanova

(Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

VILLANOVA, Pa. — It was a game that sophomore guard Stevie Mitchell had been excited for over the course of the last few days.

“I had a lot of family and friends here so I was really excited,” Mitchell said. “It’s always nice to play in front of familiar faces. … I had 31 people on my ticket list (today).”

Mitchell, who is from Reading, Pennsylvania, put up a career-high 19 points Saturday afternoon inside Finneran Pavilion as Marquette (11-4, 3-1 Big East) defeated Villanova (7-7, 1-2 Big East) in dramatic fashion 68-66.

“We needed it,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said of Mitchell’s performance. “We struggled at times offensively. As a team, it was not one of our best offensive games but Stevie has been a leader for us in terms of energy, deflection (and) taking the other team’s leading scorer and making him inefficient. It is poetic justice that he was able to be our leading scorer today.”

It is the first time the Golden Eagles have earned back-to-back victories against the Wildcats at Finneran Pavilion.

Marquette has two of the three losses Villanova has suffered at home since the Big East reconstruction in 2013, the other coming last year when Justin Lewis hit the go-ahead 3-pointer. 

“This is huge for us in a lot of ways,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t gotten many road wins yet and then coming into this game, it’s only one team in the last four years to beat them here. It’s not an easy environment play, luckily we were that team. We knew what it took and that was our theme for this game.”

Marquette finishes it 

This game was a tale of two halves and Marquette delivered with the stronger final 20 minutes.

It was a three-point deficit when Marquette first-year guard Chase Ross gave the Golden Eagles a personal 5-0 run with a layup and three-pointer to tie the game at 55-55.

“Chase was great,” Smart said. “He’s so unflappable for our freshman. He played with great aggressiveness on offense which was huge.”

Tension then rose from both sides over the next few minutes with baskets being exchanged. The Golden Eagles took a 64-60 lead after junior forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper hit two free-throws but Wildcats graduate student forward Caleb Daniels sunk a contested three-pointer to give Villanova a one point advantage.

Villanova senior guard Chris Arcidiacono then hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 66-66 with 3:42 left in regulation.

Things would then get tighter. Sophomore forward David Joplin committed a turnover with 3:08 left. The Golden Eagles forced a stop defensively before Prosper slammed home an emphatic dunk off a pass from junior forward Oso Ighodaro to put Marquette up with 1:42 to go.

Villanova fouled several times down the stretch to hold Marquette. Sophomore guard Kam Jones headed to the charity stripe with 15.3 seconds but missed the start of a one-and-one.

The Golden Eagles, who had entered the afternoon struggling to finish close games on the road, would tighten their defense.

After Villanova called a timeout, the Wildcats fed the inbound pass to redshirt junior forward Eric Dixon looking to tie the game and force overtime.

However, Ighodaro stopped Dixon from hitting a fadeaway jumper just before the buzzer allowing the Golden Eagles to pick up the victory and improve to 3-1 in Big East play.

“To win in your league and to win big games, especially on the road, you got to be able to win close ones,” Smart said. “I don’t we’ve been bad late in the game, I think we’ve played some good teams that have made some plays.

“Thought our guys maintained the pace that we want to have offensively. Defensively, we tried our butts off and I think the stat of the game is them (Villanova) having 22 points in the second half.”

Golden Eagles put together strong second half defense 

Both teams combined for 83 points in the first half, Villanova shot 54% from the field compared to Marquette’s 47%.

The Wildcats then scored 22 points in the second half on 9-for-29 from the field and 4-for-16 from beyond the arc. Villanova shot 8-for-17 from deep in the first half.

“They’re just a really well-coached team,” Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said. “They take away your strengths and they play extremely hard. They make it hard to get to the rim and take away threes.”

Villanova shot 4-for-14 in the final 13 minutes. The Golden Eagles held the Wildcats to no points over the final 3:42 of that stretch.

“Between Daniels, (Cam) Whitmore, Dixon and (Brandon) Slater, those guys are all ultra aggressive and the system here at Villanova for a long time has been as good as anyone in the country at exploiting one-on-one opportunities with movement off the ball,” Smart said.

“Our guys did a good job kind of holding their own, putting a chest on the offensive player. We doubled the post some, which was a big part of what we were trying to do, and then I think just a little bit more want to (defend).”

Marquette also held Villanova first-year forward Cam Whitmore, the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year, to just two points in the second half after 14 in the first half.

“He was ultra aggressive,” Smart said of Whitmore in the first half. “We had to adjust to his aggressiveness. He was doing a great job attacking and I thought our guys did a good job of trying to defend him with multiple defenders and not just the guy guarding him.”

Up next 

Marquette will remain on the road as it travels to Queens, New York Tuesday to take on St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. CST.

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnLeuzzi. 

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