Rhode Island

No. 14 Marquette takes balanced attack into clash with Villanova

The surprise Marquette will look to maintain some of the lead in the Big East when the 14th-ranked Golden Eagles host Villanova Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

Marquette (17-5, 9-2 Big East), who has won eight of his last nine games, took part of the lead with an 89-69 win at DePaul on Saturday and scored 56 points in the second half.

Marquette, who ranked ninth in Big East’s preseason poll, shares the top spot with No. 16 Providence and No. 18 Xavier, who play Wednesday in Cincinnati.

Villanova (10-11, 4-6) lost to Providence 70-65 on Sunday and was outplayed 15-10 in the last seven minutes.

Marquette led DePaul by just a point after the first half, before pulling away.

“I loved the way our boys came out at half-time,” said Marquette coach Shaka Smart, “and I think I just showed that after a frustrating first half we really focused on what we had to do.

“We talk about being violent and that’s a big foundation for us on both ends of the dance floor – not to be confused with any violence outside of the dance floor. “It’s just aggressiveness, assertiveness, a little bit of malice. Basketball is a contact sport. Basketball is a sport where the more aggressive (team) has a huge advantage in more ways than one.”

Marquette has a balanced attack with five players scoring in double figures. Kam Jones is the team’s best averaging 16 points per game, followed by Olivier-Maxence Prosper with 14 points. Oso Ighodaro adds 12.1 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds per game.

Tyler Kolek (10.8 ppg) leads the Big East and is third in the nation with eight assists per game. Reserve David Joplin (10.5 ppg) had a career-high 28 points against De Paul and hit 8 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc.

The Golden Eagles are ranked #1 in the country for adjusted offensive efficiency on kenpom.com.

Freshman guard Sean Jones (wrist) did not play against DePaul. Kam Jones (hip) came out four minutes into the second half and did not return. Both were considered questionable for Wednesday.

Villanova guard Justin Moore, who missed the first 20 games of the season after recovering from an Achilles tendon injury sustained in an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight win against Houston last spring, returned against Providence return.

Moore played 31 minutes and finished with five points, four rebounds and four assists. He averaged 14.8 points per game last season.

“I thought he looked good, but you know, but he said again that he hadn’t played in a long time,” said Villanova coach Kyle Neptune. “What he brings with him more than anything is another leader out there who has been through many battles.”

Moore said: “I felt good. Obviously I haven’t played a game in 10 months so I need to get my rhythm back. It was just great to be back out there with the lads.”

Caleb Daniels leads Villanova with an average of 16.3 points per game and a team-best 51 3-pointers. Eric Dixon adds 15.7 points on 50.4 percent field goal shooting, along with a team-high 6.5 rebounds. Standout freshman Cam Whitmore (13.1 ppg) has three games to score 20 or more, including 21 against Providence.

Marquette has won the last three encounters with Villanova, including a 68-66 away win in the first game of the season. The Golden Eagles, from a nine-point deficit in the second half, grabbed a career-high 19 points from sophomore Stevie Mitchell.

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