The sellout crowd at Finneran Pavilion felt it could collectively exhale. Villanova had taken a 10-point lead Wednesday night with 2 minutes left, Marquette hadn’t scored for the previous two minutes, and the end of the Wildcats’ three-game losing streak appeared to be assured.

But the Golden Eagles’ Markus Howard, the nation’s leading scorer, still had some shots to make, and the 15th-ranked Wildcats had to hang on for dear life until the buzzer sounded for a 72-71 victory over No. 18 Marquette (17-7, 7-5 Big East).

The Cats (18-6, 8-4), who led by as any as 18 early in the second half, used two free throws from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and a three-point basket from Collin Gillespie to take a 70-60 lead with 2 minutes, 2 seconds to play. But Howard, who made just 4 of his first 15 shots, then went on his torrid run.

He hit a three-point basket , a driving layup, and another three to cut the gap to three, 71-68, with 40.8 seconds remaining. After Bey missed a shot, Howard was fouled with 5.6 seconds remaining. He missed the first free throw and, after a timeout, tried to shoot to create a rebound, but he did not hit the rim, giving ‘Nova the ball.

Robinson-Earl made one of two free throws with 4 seconds remaining, and Howard’s three-point try swished at the buzzer for the final margin.

Keys to the Game

Robinson-Earl had his eighth double-double of the season, 17 points and 11 rebounds, but struggled at the free-throw line. An 85.3% free-throw shooter entering the game, he went 5-of-9, including 2-of-5 in the final 1:04. Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels added 14 points each for ‘Nova.

Howard finished with 24 points to become the all-time leading scorer in Big East Conference games with 1,408 points, breaking the record of 1,405 held by Syracuse’s Lawrence Moten.

After a first half in which they led by 15 and shot 46.9% from the field, the Cats cooled off to 32.1% in the second half.

Saddiq Bey, right, of Villanova tries to steal the ball from MArkus Howard of Marquette during the 2nd half on Feb. 12, 2020 at the Finneran Pavilion at Villanova University.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Saddiq Bey, right, of Villanova tries to steal the ball from MArkus Howard of Marquette during the 2nd half on Feb. 12, 2020 at the Finneran Pavilion at Villanova University.

Quotable

Jay Wright on guarding Howard: “We wanted to play him as a team without giving too much up on the other guys. [Sacar] Anim and [Koby] McEwen are really dynamic scorers also. We just wanted to guard him as a team. I thought [Robinson-Earl] did an amazing job early in ball screens helping and trapping him, keeping him in front of him. We did a decent job in the second half. Right at the end, I think we were afraid to foul him.”

Villanova great Ryan Arcidiacono had his number 15 retired at halftime of the game between Villanova and Marquette on Feb. 12, 2020 at the Finneran Pavilion at Villanova University.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Villanova great Ryan Arcidiacono had his number 15 retired at halftime of the game between Villanova and Marquette on Feb. 12, 2020 at the Finneran Pavilion at Villanova University.

Takeaways

Villanova honored Ryan Arcidiacono, a leader of its 2016 national championship season, by retiring his jersey in halftime ceremonies. “It’s awesome, just a special, special night,” he said. “I told myself I wasn’t going to get emotional, but I got a little emotional, because this university, the fans, having all my family and friends here … it means the world to me.”

The win, combined with Creighton’s victory over first-place Seton Hall, moved the Wildcats into a tie for second place with the Bluejays, two games behind the Pirates.