- Villanova was tested by Marquette, but emerged with a morale-boosting win to halt a three-game losing streak and regain confidence late in the season.
Jermaine Samuels hadn’t scored in three games, all disheartening Villanova losses. But on Wednesday night, with the Wildcats desperately needing a home win to reaffirm belief in their season, the sophomore put together his most complete outing and led his team to a 67-61 victory.
Despite averaging 4.4 points heading into the contest, Samuels tallied 29 and went 5-for-13 from three. He bailed Villanova out in the first half and just kept scoring in the second, leading the Wildcats past a tough Marquette team. It was a much needed offensive performance for Villanova, as seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth were abysmal from the floor (5-of-27 combined). But Marquette was inefficient offensively, committing 18 turnovers and generally playing discombobulated basketball.
Villanova dominated the first 10 minutes of the game behind Samuels's shooting, but let Marquette back into it after building a double-digit lead. It was a 32-28 game at halftime, and Marquette took the initiative in the second half, holding a slim lead down the stretch before Villanova completely bottled up Markus Howard and the Golden Eagles’ offense.
Marquette was stuck on 60 points, and Villanova chipped away and took a one-point lead with a Saddiq Bey three. Two Booth free throws (he at least went 10-for-10 from the line to make up for his shooting) extended it to 63-60, and Villanova would not relinquish control afterward.
Marquette's turnover problem could be costly down the line
The Golden Eagles are 227th in the country in turnover percentage on kenpom, and this game was the epitome of their carelessness with the ball. Marquette turned it over in every way possible: poor offensive fouls, bad passes, you name it. Markus Howard is a good shooter, but his ball-handling skills and decision-making (he had a 4:7 assist-to-turnover ratio) are areas that could use improvement. Joey Hauser and Howard have turnover rates of 22.0 and 18.4, respectively, which is not top-10 caliber production.
Villanova still has serious issues
All of what went wrong in Villanova's three-game losing streak came to the forefront against Marquette. Energy was lacking at times on offense, and the Wildcats were once again very passive and content to settle for threes that were not falling. If it weren't for Samuels's heroics, this would've been another Golden Eagles win. Paschall and Booth need to get hot before the Big East Tournament for Villanova to have any kind of deep run in March.
Should Jermaine Samuels be playing more?
Samuels got the start over Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and it paid dividends for Villanova. While Jay Wright was likely making a lineup change to jumpstart his team without expecting such an offensive explosion (again, Samuels had not scored a single point in three previous games, while getting double-digit minutes in all of them), his move looks like an absolute masterstroke now. Samuels's offensive renaissance is likely unsustainable, but with the Wildcats struggling to find a workable solution to their issues, perhaps some fearless shot taking could help.