MILWAUKEE (AP) — The jug full of sticky notes that Marquette kept near its bench Wednesday night helped the Golden Eagles pour it on down the stretch and maintain a share of the Big East lead.
Tyler Kolek scored 20 points and No. 14 Marquette rallied to beat Villanova 73-64, keeping pace with Xavier atop the conference standings.
Kolek credited Marquette’s latest motivational ploy.
“We went in the film room the other day and every guy wrote down on a sticky note what they were going to do to help the team positively,” he said. “For me, it was stay super positive and encourage every guy even if everything isn’t going our way.”
All the sticky notes were placed in a pitcher that Marquette had nearby througout the game.
“Most of the stuff I do is stolen from other people, but that actually was one I just kind of came up with,” coach Shaka Smart said. “I said, ‘Guys, we’ve got to pour into each other.’ That’s our biggest advantage — the way that everyone feels about each other in our room. I said, ‘Let’s get a pitcher and let’s have everybody write one thing that they can do that’s under their control and fold it up and put it in a pitcher.’ We carried that around with us for two days in practice and, most importantly, in the game.”
Marquette (18-5, 10-2) has won four straight and nine of 10. The Golden Eagles remain tied for first place in the Big East with No. 16 Xavier, which won 85-83 in overtime against No. 17 Providence earlier.
Xavier, Providence and Marquette began the night in a three-way tie for first.
Kam Jones had 18 points for the Golden Eagles. Eric Dixon and Caleb Daniels scored 14 each for Villanova, which committed a season-high 19 turnovers.
Villanova (10-12, 4-7) made Marquette work for this one.
In a game neither team led by more than six until the final minute, Kolek put the Golden Eagles ahead for good at 63-62 by sinking two free throws with 4:32 remaining. That started a 10-0 spurt that put the game away as Marquette’s defense made seven straight stops.
After shooting 57.9% overall and 7 of 13 from 3-point range in the first half, Villanova shot 40% from the floor and went 4 for 14 from beyond the arc the rest of the way. Wildcats coach Kyle Neptune said the difference in Marquette’s defense during the second half was apparent.
“They just played harder,” Neptune said. “They were nasty. They got in passing lanes. They got some deflections. They’re just a tough, nasty team.”
Villanova took a 59-55 lead on Brendan Hausen’s 3-pointer with 7:42 remaining but didn’t make another basket until Daniels dunked with 10 seconds left.
Villanova: The Wildcats showed they’re better than their record, particularly with Justin Moore back. Moore played just his second game of the season after tearing his Achilles tendon in last season’s NCAA Tournament. But the Wildcats were hamstrung by foul trouble involving three starters: Dixon, Cam Whitmore and Brandon Slater. Whitmore, who was coming off a 21-point performance in a loss to Providence, played less than 14 1/2 minutes and scored five points. Slater had five points in 28 minutes, while Dixon played 23 minutes.
Marquette: The latest example of how far the Golden Eagles have come is that Marquette has swept the regular-season series with Villanova — the Big East’s traditional standard bearer — for two straight seasons. … The Golden Eagles should feel good about starting February with a victory. They entered the month with a 17-24 combined post-January record over the past four seasons. … Marquette should get even stronger whenever reserve guard Sean Jones returns. Jones missed a second consecutive game with a wrist injury. Smart said Jones’ status for Saturday’s game against Butler remains uncertain.
Marquette owns its highest ranking since it was No. 10 in February 2019. This winning streak could have the Golden Eagles flirting with another top-10 spot.
Villanova: At Creighton on Saturday.
Marquette: Hosts Butler on Saturday.