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Brunson Helps Lift Wildcats Past Marquette 85-82

(DiVincenzo, Villanova)

Jan. 28, 2018

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MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – In Villanova’s first 2017-18 game without Phil Booth (fractured bone in right hand), backcourt mates Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo (Salesianum) combined for 54 points to an 85-82 victory over Marquette before 17,120 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center Sunday afternoon.

The No. 1 ranked Wildcats improved to 20-1 overall, 7-1 in the BIG EAST. This marks the sixth consecutive season in which VU has posted 20 or more victories and matches a 20-1 start in 2009-10 as the best in program history.

“That was a great atmosphere for college basketball,” stated VU head coach Jay Wright. “Marquette is a very difficult team to play against.”

Andrew Rowsey scored 29 points to lead Marquette, which dropped to 13-8 overall, 4-5 in conference play for the season.

Brunson’s 31 points matched a career high set twice earlier this season. The junior added five rebounds and overcame an ankle injury that took him to the sidelines midway through the second half.

“Jalen actually apologized to me,” Wright noted. “He said that when it first happened he thought it was bade and that he was in trouble. But he said later it wasn’t too bad.”

“I was scared at first,” Brunson stated afterward. “But I’m fine.”

In the first meeting between the two teams back on Jan. 6 at the Wells Fargo Center they combined for 190 points. The first five minutes looked very much like that game as the Wildcats got eight early points from DiVincenzo – stepping into the starting lineup in Booth’s absence - for VU while Markus Howard had six points for Marquette in what became a 14-12 lead for Villanova at the first official timeout five minutes into the game.

A 3-point basket by Eric Paschall helped the Wildcats extend their edge to 22-14 before Marquette reeled off five straight points to draw within 22-18 at the 11:24 mark of the first half. On the scoring play by Marquette’s Jamal Cain, though, DiVincenzo was whistled for his second foul.

The Wildcats moved out to a 36-27 lead but foul issues began to test VU. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Eric Paschall both picked up their second fouls. The Wildcats went through a 1-of-7 stretch and Marquette put together a 12-3 surge to shave the VU lead to 40-39 with 3:19 left to play in the first half.

When Cain buried a corner 3-pointer with 2:40 left in the period, Marquette had itself a 42-40 lead.

However, Jalen Brunson led a final charge for the Wildcats, who scored the final seven points of the period to reclaim the lead. VU led 49-44 at halftime as Brunson (15 points), Paschall (10 points) and DiVincenzo (10 points) led the way. Howard’s 13 points paced the Golden Eagles in the first 20 minutes.

Six straight points from Marquette’s Rowsey to open the second half – one on a 3-pointer and the other after being fouled on a 3-point bid – put the Golden Eagles back on top 59 seconds into the second half, 50-49.

“He’s so tough to guard,” noted Wright. “He has great form on his head fakes and because he is such a good 3-point shooter, he is able to get guys into the air.”

A wonderful sequence by Brunson helped the Wildcats come back and claim a 59-52 advantage five minutes into the second half. The lead grew to 73-64 before an 8-0 burst by the Golden Eagles brought Marquette to within 73-72 with just more than six minutes to play in regulation time.

Villanova scored the game’s next seven points before Marquette answered with a 5-0 run of its own after a Harry Froling traditional 3-point play. With 3:38 left on the clock, VU held an 80-77 lead.

A pair of Brunson free throws pushed the advantage to 82-77 and DiVincenzo then connected on 1-of-2 after a VU defensive stop to take the lead to 83-77. Then Rowsey sank his fifth 3-pointer of the day to pull the Golden Eagles to within 83-80. But a clutch offensive rebound by Mikal Bridges in the final minute was enormous and helped the Wildcats close out the win.

“They’re a great team,” Wright stated. “We couldn’t stop them at all in the first half. We were a little better in the second half and got some big stops, which I thought was the difference.”

Next up for the Wildcats is a rare four game BIG EAST home-stand. Villanova kicks off that stretch with a Thursday night clash with Creighton at the Wells Fargo Center (FS1/610 Sports Radio).

The 2017-18 Villanova Basketball season is presented by KeyBank.

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