The defending Big East Tournament champion Villanova Wildcats came into this year appearing in the previous three championship games of the tournament and winning two of them.
There was a sold out crowd of 19,812 as Villanova beats Marquette 94-70. They will advance to the semi-finals for the 20th time in school history.
The Wildcats, who lead the nation in scoring with 87.2 points per game, hung 94 points on Marquette thanks to the great play from Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson. Bridges led the way with 25 points and eight rebounds while Brunson had 21 points.
“We shoot no matter what,” Bridges said. “Even if someone is off, we don’t let that bother us. We’re going to keep shooting no matter what.”
Villanova Beats Marquette in Big East Tournament Quarterfinals, 90-74
Marquette’s hot start from deep
Villanova has the reputation of living and dying by the three. Tonight it was Marquette who needed the three-point line to stay in it. That is what Howard and Rowsey do best. The Golden Eagles as a team shot 7-15 from deep in the first half. Rowsey was 3-8 while Howard shot 4-6.
The only problem was, Villanova was just as good. After a Donte DiVincenzo three, Bridges converted a four point play to put the Wildcats up five with 4:48 to play in the first. He was the high man for Villanova with 16 points through 20 minutes.
Rowsey and Howard combined for 20 of the Golden Eagles 30 points. To beat a team like Villanova, more than two guys will need to have an impact on the game. Despite the hot start, the Golden Eagles found themselves down 41-34 heading into the locker room.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright is known for playing his five starters with maybe a player or two off the bench every game. This year the Wildcats go eight deep, which is more than recent years. Despite their lack of players, they make it seem like more.
The way that Wright subs players in and out is almost scientific. He knows his players tendencies and who plays well with who. Another reason the Wildcats seem to play 15 different guys is their ability to have a different player step up every night. Tonight, it was Phil Booth. The junior scored the last five points of a 12-0 run to put his team up 58-43 with 13:43 left.
“Every game here means a lot to us,” Brunson said. “We always give it our all and play like it’s our last. There’s great tradition and memories in this tournament.”
Eric Paschall also stepped up for Villanova, scoring 13 points. Villanova hit three’s on five straight possessions to balloon the lead to 21 and they never looked back. As a team, they shot 15-29 from deep. The reason that Marquette was not going to beat them with two players is because Villanova, aside from having two of the best players in the country in Brunson and Bridges, have six other guys who can step up on any given night.
“The guys get excited about playing here and thankfully we shoot it well in this building,” Wright said.
With this win, Wright became the winningest coach in Villanova history with 414 wins passing Alex Severance. When asked about the accomplishment, Wright remained humble as always.
“I’m mostly thankful to be the coach at Villanova,” Wright said. “I’ll think about the wins one day but right now I’m just thankful. I have the best job in the country.”
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 13: Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats in action against the St. John’s Red Storm during an NCAA men’s basketball game at Madison Square Garden on January 13, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)