Surprising Marquette will be out to maintain a share of the Big East lead when the 14th-ranked Golden Eagles host Villanova on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
Marquette (17-5, 9-2 Big East), which has won eight of its past nine games, moved into a share of the lead with an 89-69 victory at DePaul on Saturday, scoring 56 points in the second half.
Marquette, picked ninth in the Big East preseason poll, shares the top spot with No. 16 Providence and No. 18 Xavier, who play each other on Wednesday in Cincinnati.
Villanova (10-11, 4-6) is coming off a 70-65 loss to Providence on Sunday, getting outscored 15-10 over the final seven minutes.
Marquette led DePaul but just one point after the first half before pulling away.
“I was excited about the way our guys came out at halftime,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said, “and, I think, just demonstrated a real focus on what we needed to do after a frustrating first half.
“We talk about being violent, and that’s a big foundation for us on both ends of the floor — not to be confused with any violence off the floor. “It’s just aggressiveness, assertiveness, a little bit of nastiness. Basketball is a contact sport. Basketball is a sport where the more aggressive (team) has a huge advantage in more ways than one.”
Marquette features a balanced attack with five players scoring in double figures. Kam Jones averages a team-best 16 points per game, followed by Olivier-Maxence Prosper at 14. Oso Ighodaro adds 12.1 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game.
Tyler Kolek (10.8 ppg) leads the Big East and is third in the nation in assists at eight per game. Reserve David Joplin (10.5 ppg) had a career-high 28 points against De Paul, hitting 8 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc.
The Golden Eagles are ranked No. 1 in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom.com.
Freshman guard Sean Jones (wrist) did not play against DePaul. Kam Jones (hip) came out four minutes into the second half and did not return. Both were considered questionable for Wednesday.
Villanova guard Justin Moore, who missed the season’s first 20 games recovering from an Achilles tendon injury sustained in an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight victory over Houston last spring, returned against Providence.
Moore played 31 minutes and wound up with five points, four rebounds and four assists. He averaged 14.8 points per game last season.
“I thought he looked good, but you know, but again he said he hasn’t played in a long time,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. “The thing he brings more than anything is another leader out there who has been through a lot of battles.”
Moore said, “I felt good. Of course, I haven’t played a game in 10 months so I have to get back in rhythm. It was just great to be out there with the guys competing again.”
Caleb Daniels leads Villanova with an average of 16.3 points per game and a team-best 51 3-pointers. Eric Dixon adds 15.7 points on 50.4 percent field-goal shooting to go along with a team-high 6.5 rebounds. Standout freshman Cam Whitmore (13.1 ppg) has three games of 20 or more points, including 21 against Providence.
Marquette has won the last three meetings with Villanova, including a 68-66 road victory in the first matchup this season. The Golden Eagles, who had to overcome a nine-point, second-half deficit, got a career-high 19 points from sophomore Stevie Mitchell.
–Field Level Media