The Wildcats trailed the Golden Eagles by 1.5 games in the league standings coming in to the night, but gained a full game in ousting the league leaders in Philly. Marquette has three games remaining on its schedule, and once-streaking 'Nova, which had lost four of six ahead of Wednesday, has two.
Villanova's offense, which has ranked inside the top five in adjusted efficiency over the last four seasons, had been a huge reason for its early season successes. The reigning national champions opened the season 19-4 by shooting (and making) threes at an unusually high rate, and while their success from deep has largely remained, the offense as a whole has petered off. Such was not the case against Marquette.
The Wildcats shot 32 (that's right...32!) threes, making nine, and limited themselves to only seven turnovers (to Marquette's 17). Taking care of the ball was huge, but nothing was bigger than Jermaine Samuels' out-of-nowhere star turn to. Over his previous 10 games, the sophomore forward had scored a total of just 26 points. But against Marquette, Samuels scored a game-high 29, outdueling All-America candidate Markus Howard, who finished with 25.
Howard was tremendous for much of the night, and easily could have finished with another 30-burger had foul trouble midway through the second half not sent him to the bench for a lengthy period. Villanova did not take advantage of Howard's absence on the court during that span, but Phil Booth came up big down the stretch, scoring seven points in the final five minutes including a pair of game-icing free throws with 28 seconds remaining.
Villanova has to get some some help to win the league, needing Marquette slip-up, and the Wildcats would have to take care of their own business as well, with road trips to Butler on Saturday, and Seton Hall on March 9 to wrap up the regular season.