Villanova cruised to an easy 84-49 win over Marquette to advance to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden Thursday afternoon. It was the 30th win for the Wildcats who have a chance to be a top regional seed in the NCAA Tournament if they win the conference tournament.
Josh Hart led the way for ‘Nova with 20 points including 7-of-10 from the floor. Darrun Hilliard recorded 13 points while Dylan Ennis added 12.
The Wildcats were very accurate from the floor, shooting 52.6 percent as a team for the game overall and 58.6 percent from behind the three-point line. Their 17 three-pointers tied a Big East Tournament record. Marquette fought valiantly but did not have an answer for all of the weapons Villanova possessed.
“I think Villanova is a team that can win a National Championship,” said Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski. “I think they have all the ingredients. If they play like they did tonight, I don’t know how you beat them.”
Villanova broke out to an 8-0 lead and never trailed in the game. The closest Marquette got was trailing 10-8 with 12:46 left in the opening half, but a ‘Nova went on a 19-2 run to give them a 29-12 lead and essentially put the game out of reach.
“We just came out and we just made threes consecutively early,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said after the game. “I thought that set the tone for the game.”
Hart was particularly hot and finished the first half making all five of his shots from the floor and all four of his free throw attempts.
“I just felt confidence,” Hart said. “Darrun as finding me when I was open. Ryan found me. Kris found me. When those guys find you when you’re wide open, after the first couple, you just get in a rhythm and get a confidence.”
In addition to their fine outside shooting, Villanova passed the ball extremely well, picking up 22 team assists for the game while scoring 30 baskets from the floor. The Wildcats showed patience and good ball movement throughout the game. Hilliard led the team with eight assists.
In the second half, Marquette tried to get on a run but never pulled closer than 15 points as Villanova cruised to the win.
The loss ended Marquette’s season with a disappointing 13-19 record. “I thought our guys worked hard,” Wojciechowski said when asked about his club’s season. “Obviously the record wasn’t like we wanted. I’m proud of a lot of things. We also have a lot of things we need to improve upon. So we’ll get to work right away.”
The victory was an important one for Villanova who is trying to put an early exit in last year’s tournament behind them.
“We can’t control what happened in the past,” Hilliard said. “We can only control what happens now, and I think we came out with great energy and a great attitude. That’s the only thing we can control. As far as last year, it’s over and we just focus on this year.”
Villanova will meet Providence next in the Big East Semifinals Friday at Madison Square Garden. If they continue to play the way they did against Marquette today, they are capable of anything.
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Villanova Men’s Basketball Postgame Press Conference
Head Coach Jay Wright and Josh Hart:
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