VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP)Jermiah Robinson-Earl had 17 points and 11 rebounds and No. 15 Villanova held on for a 72-71 victory over No. 18 Marquette on Wednesday night to snap a three-game losing streak.
Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels added 14 points apiece for Villanova (18-6, 8-4 Big East). The Wildcats had surrendered an average of 75 points in defeats to Creighton, Butler and Seton Hall – all teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25. Villanova, which pulled into a second-place tie with Creighton in the Big East, avoided losing four in a row for the first time since Feb. 15-25, 2012.
Markus Howard scored 24 points for Marquette (17-7, 7-5), which had won three straight and six of seven. Howard, the country’s leading scorer who entered averaging 27.4 points per game, became the Big East’s all-time leading scorer in league games with 1,408 points.
The Wildcats led by as many as 15 points in the first half and came out strong to open the second half. Villanova scored the first nine points after the break, five of which came from the free-throw line, to lead 47-29 with 16:27 remaining. Marquette continued a pattern from the opening 20 minutes by missing its first six shots after the break.
The Golden Eagles slowly cut into the Villanova advantage. They were within five, 65-60, with 3:58 remaining on Koby McEwen’s 3-pointer from the left corner. The Wildcats tallied the next five, capped by Gillespie’s 3 with 2:03 left.
But Howard’s 3 with 43 seconds left pulled the Golden Eagles within 71-68. After Saddiq Bey missed, Villanova intentionally fouled Howard. He missed the first and then failed to hit the rim while trying to miss the second, giving the ball to Villanova. Robinson-Earl then made the second of two free throws with 4 seconds left before Howard drained a 3 at the buzzer.
Villanova retired the No. 15 jersey of former guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who was part of 117 wins during his four-year career, which culminated with the 2016 national championship. Arcidiacono had the assist on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer that sent Villanova to a 77-74 win over North Carolina for the title.
”I got a little emotional,” said Arcidiacono, who is in his third season playing for the Chicago Bulls. ”It means the world to me. The NBA is awesome but there’s something special about being a student-athlete, playing in front of your friends and family every single game on campus in front of a raucous crowd.”
Marquette: The Golden Eagles have a rare weekend off before returning to action next Tuesday at home against Creighton. Marquette can gain some momentum for the postseason by playing three of the next four at home before finishing the regular season on the road at DePaul and St. John’s.
Villanova: The Wildcats take a break from Big East action to wrap up the Philadelphia Big 5 portion of their schedule on Sunday at Temple. Villanova already has defeated its first three Big 5 opponents: La Salle, 83-72 on Dec. 1; Penn, 80-69 on Dec. 4; and Saint Joseph’s, 78-66 on Dec. 7. Villanova has won six straight against Temple.
Marquette: Host Creighton on Tuesday.
Villanova: At Temple on Saturday.
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