VILLANOVA, PA. 2/28/2019 – The Villanova Wildcats returned home and snapped their three game losing streak grinding out a 67 -61 win over the #10/9 Marquette Golden Eagles on Senior Night at the Finneran Pavilion. The Wildcats improve to 12 – 4 in the Big East, a half-game behind the league leading Golden Eagles.
“That was a great Big East game, awesome,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “Marquette is really good, a final four caliber team. We played tough, not pretty. Our seniors were amazing, Jermaine (Samuels) was amazing, and our guys just gutted it out.”
The Nova seniors have lead the team this season. This game had a sophomore step up as forward Jermaine Samuels scored a career-high 29 points making 10 of 19 from the floor and 5 of 13 from beyond the arc. It was also a career-mark in made three-pointers for Samuels. He pulled down 9 rebounds.
“I just wanted to be aggressive and make plays,” Samuels said. “I also wanted to keep my teammates involved in the flow.”
“He is at the point where he is making good decisions, he’s mixing it up,” Wright said about Samuels. “He was amazing tonight.”
Marquette was led by Markus Howard who scored a team-high 25 points. Howard made 8 of 19 and 4 of 11 from distance. Villanova ran different players at him on defense to help keep Howard somewhat contained.
“He has so many ways to score,” Wright said about Howard. “We were trying to take away his three’s after he got on a roll.”
The game was back and forth . Villanova had an early lead thanks to Samuels who had 15 points at halftime. The Wildcats went into the locker room at intermission leading 32 – 28.
The lead stretched again in the first four minutes of the second half as Nova went ahead 42 – 33. Then, Howard started to heat up scoring 13 of the net 15 Golden Eagles points propelling his team to a 51 – 48 lead with just under eleven and a half minutes to play. Samuels tied it up with a traditional three-point play.
In a critical segment of the game Howard picked up two offensive fouls and went to the bench with 9:28 to go and Nova up by 2 points. Sam Hauser erased that lead with a trey.
“We did a great job of stepping up and getting charges on him, Wright said. “That was big, but the time he was out of the game we lost the lead. That’s how crazy this game is, we couldn’t score on them either.”
With just under 5 minutes left and trailing by 5, senior Phil Booth hit a three-pointer, 3 of his 17 points, bringing the Wildcats to within 2. It ignited a 12 – 1 run by the Cats to close the game. The clock showed two and a half minutes left when freshman Saddiq Bey drained a three-ball giving the lead back to the home team at 61 – 60. Villanova closed the game at the foul line.
Marquette scored one point over the last 5:14 of the game.
“We had some big time stops, but when we weren’t scoring, it didn’t affect our defense,” Wright said. “The past few games when the offense wasn’t going well, we didn’t play defense. That was the difference tonight. Phil and Eric (Paschall) did a great job of keeping the young guys focused.”
With the win the Wildcats denied the Golden Eagles a chance to clinch the Big East regular season title. Marquette stands at 12 – 3 in the league, Villanova at 12 – 4. Marquette has three games left, Nova two.
There is still much to be decided. But the seniors have a great memory to take with them. An upset win in their last Pavilion game.
“It’s about the families and it’s worth it,” said Wright.
“These guys have meant so much throughout this year, practicing hard, learning and listening,” Booth said. “After a career ends like this with a win in the Pavilion, it means a lot,” said Booth. “I am glad we came out with a win.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian