Entering Saturday’s Big East clash between No. 4 Villanova and Marquette at the Bradley Center, the two conference foes had played their last eight games with a margin of victory within four points in each contest. So, you knew this game was going to be close.
But nobody could have predicted the insane regulation finish that occurred on Saturday.
Despite trailing the entire game, Marquette (11-9, 3-4) mounted a furious comeback in the second half to force overtime, but Villanova (17-2, 6-1) settled down in the overtime on its way to a 94-85 win on Saturday.
Villanova led 73-67 with 49 seconds left before Marquette guard Todd Mayo scored 10 points in 30 seconds — with the help of some Villanova missed free throws and Ryan Arcidiacono’s foul on Mayo’s three-point attempt — to help the Golden Eagles tie the game at 77-all with five seconds remaining.
Then Villanova guard Tony Chennault (seven points) appeared to make the game-winning layup at the rim for the Wildcats after going coast-to-coast with under five seconds left, but the basket was waved off after the referees called a charge on Chennault as the guard ran into Marquette forward Steve Taylor under the hoop as Taylor attempted to take a charge.
Replays clearly showed that Taylor’s foot was in the restricted area and Villanova and head coach Jay Wright were livid with the call heading into the extra frame.
But credit Villanova for coming out and playing with fire and energy in overtime. With the Bradley Center at fever pitch following the improbable Marquette comeback, the Wildcats took the air out of the arena by building a quick five-point lead and never looking back.
Villanova had balanced scoring on the day as James Bell finished with 30 points and Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard each finished with 20 points. JayVaughn Pinkston added 12 points as well for the Wildcats.
The play of Arcidiacono — in particular — was huge for Villanova as the sophomore point guard also had 11 assists, and zero turnovers, and instantly stabilized the Wildcat offense during overtime.
Marquette needs to do a better job of mixing up its primary scoring options. Devante Gardner had a huge 29-point, 13-rebound effort, but he was the only Golden Eagle to score in overtime and Mayo (18 points) was the only Golden Eagle to score during the comeback in the final 40 seconds. If Gardner and Mayo can do a better job of alternating shots and also adding in Jamil Wilson (16 points, nine rebounds, seven assists), they’ll be a dangerous team in the Big East with how scrappy they play.
Villanova has to be happy with a road win with how close this series has been the last few years. Marquette is in the midst of a tough stretch, but the Bradley Center is never an easy place to win.