Absolutely nothing went right in Marquette’s last game. It’s a situation Villanova knows all too well.
Both Big East rivals would like nothing more than a bounce-back win to start 2012 when they meet Sunday at the Bradley Center.
No. 13 Marquette (11-2, 0-0) has dropped two of three since a 10-0 start and was run out of its own gym Thursday in a 74-57 loss to Vanderbilt. The Golden Eagles started the game 1 for 16 from the field and trailed 35-8 at one point in the first half.
“I don’t know what to do when the bottom falls out of it, other than to wake up and go right back to work,” coach Buzz Williams said after the worst home loss in his four seasons at Marquette. “The bottom fell out. We tried multiple things, multiple people, multiple everything - and nothing seemed to work.”
The first step may be getting leading scorers Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom back on track. Crowder is averaging 17.2 points and finished with 16 on Thursday, but missed his first seven shots. Johnson-Odom, leading the Golden Eagles at 17.4 points per game, has shot 39.7 percent (15 for 38) and averaged 13.3 points in three games since missing Marquette’s Dec. 17 win over Northern Colorado due to a suspension for violating team rules.
Another key for Marquette may be the play of sophomore Davante Gardner, who has been thrust into the starting center role with Chris Otule out indefinitely due to an ACL injury. Gardner is averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds but was a non-factor Thursday - finishing with two points and two rebounds in five minutes - after being saddled with early foul trouble.
“If Chris comes back, it’s a long time from now,” Williams said. “And so we need to continue to do all of the things that we’ve done since Chris has been hurt. Otherwise, we won’t have success.”
Villanova (7-6, 0-1) has dropped six of nine after a 4-0 start and lost each of its three true road games by double-digit margins. The most recent such defeat came Wednesday at West Virginia, where the Wildcats fell 83-69 as they were outscored 20-6 in the final 5:47.
Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayans each scored 20 points for Villanova, which committed 15 turnovers - 6 by Wayans - that led to 24 points for the Mountaineers.
“I thought they were the difference in the game,” coach Jay Wright said.
Wayans is averaging a team-high 17.6 points but has shot 34.4 percent (22 for 64) in his last four games - 17.6 percent (3 for 17) from 3-point range. Cheek has 22 of Villanova’s 88 3-pointers, but he and the team are both shooting 31 percent from beyond the arc.
This is the third time in four years Marquette and Villanova are playing either on New Year’s Day or Jan. 2 in Milwaukee, having split the previous two. The Wildcats, who won the only meeting between the teams last season, have won five of six against Marquette since a 79-72 defeat to ring in 2009.