VILLANOVA, PA. 2/23/2013 – Nationally ranked teams have found the Pavilion a tough place to play especially in the Jay Wright era at Villanova. The 17th ranked Marquette Golden Eagles became the 12th victim, and the 11th in the past 13 games as the Villanova Wildcats posted a hard-fought 60 -56 victory on Senior Night. Sophomore guard Darrun Hilliard paced Villanova with a game-high 22 points and 3 steals. Wright felt that his Villanova team had to play harder and tougher to pull off the upset, and they did.
“It’s a great win for our team,” said Wright. “The (Marquette) beat a lot of teams because they compete harder and they execute better. We looked at that and said for us to beat that team, we have to play hard, and we have to execute. That’s what makes us proud of the effort. You love to win and for us to play with them like that really makes us proud as a team.”
The first half would set the tone for this game as it was going to be a defensive battle. The teams went to the locker room tied at 22. Villanova held a one-point lead 37 – 36 lead with 10:52 to play. Villanova freshman forward Daniel Ochefu made a layup to give the Wildcats a 39 – 36 lead. The next possession Ochefu stole the ball and passed the ball to freshman guard Tony Chennault on break-away that gave Villanova 5-point edge, and represented a momentum shift that propelled the Wildcats to the win. Hilliard scored 11 of the next 13 points for Villanova. When his run was completed the Wildcats led 54 – 43 at the 3:32 mark.
“I just tried to be aggressive and just try to help my team anyway I can,” said Hilliard. “I tried to come in playing defense. If I play defense and do the little things, that’s all I try to do.”
Although Hilliard was the high scorer Wright credited his defense and the defensive effort of the Wildcats backcourt as the reason for the win.
“Darrun had a lot of points, but defensively he has been outstanding guarding a lot of great guards,” said Wright. “Their guards are really good. Vander Blue, Darrun was guarding him and did an amazing job on him. I know he had 22 and we don’t win the game without him, but you’re not in a game like that unless he defended like he defended.”
Marquette ended the game with an 11 – 4 run to make the final margin of victory 4 points for Villanova. Junior Cadougan was the leading scorer with 12 points. Leading scorer Vander Blue, who averages 15 points, was held to 7.
Villanova forced 19 Marquette turnovers and gained a 17 – 2 edge in points off turnovers.
“Thirty percent of your possessions you turn it over and thirty percent of their points coming from the free throw line, that’s a conglomeration of numbers that are hard to overcome,” said Marquette Coach Buzz Williams.
Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton were honored before the game. Yarou scored 10 points and pulled down 7 rebounds in the victory. He and Sutton capped their Pavilion careers with a significant victory and celebrated with the Nova Nation.
“After the game I was thinking about my time here, and I enjoyed it,” Yarou said. “It’s always about the next game for me. After the season I want to think about my Senior Day.”
The Wildcats will not have much time to celebrate as they have a quick turnaround facing Seton Hall on Monday. Villanova need to keep winning to get a possible tournament invitation. But Coach Wright and the team have a different focus between now and the end of the season.
“We say all the time, the next game is a big game because we’re in it.” Wright said. “To us it’s a big game. We try not to focus on what people on the outside label a game. To us the next game is a big game. As long as we’re playing well and keep getting better, we’ll win our share of games.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian