By Julie Glass
Jay Wright became the winningest coach in Villanova history with 414 and the No. 2 Wildcats opened defense of their Big East Tournament championship in a 94-70 win over Marquette.
Wright was tied with Al Severance, who went 413-201 from 1936-1961.
“I’m mostly proud to be the coach of Villanova, honestly,” Wright said. “The wins and everything don’t matter. I know I’ll look back on it later.”
The Wildcats (28-4) showed why their third tournament title in four years is within reach. Mikal Bridges hit four 3s and scored 25 points and Big East player of the year Jalen Brunson scored 21. The Wildcats made 15 of 29 3s — a stunning 11 of 17 in the second half.
The Cats play Butler in the semi tonight at 9 p. m.
Fresh off a blowout loss, even Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski had to admit the fact that Xavier and Villanova could both earn No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament was a boon for the league.
“Both teams have a great chance to win the national championship,” he said.
The Wildcats blew this game open early in the second half against the seventh-seeded Golden Eagles (19-13). Brunson hit a 3 to open a 10-point lead and Booth nailed one to make it a 15-point game.
Then Phil Booth, Eric Paschall,Omari Spellman, Brunson, Spellman again and Bridges all hit 3s on six straight scores to turn this into a rout and break out the “Let’s Go Nova!” chants.
“After the game, everyone was talking about shooting,” Brunson said. “Now that I look back at it, yeah, we were really shooting well, but that was the last thing on my mind. We really were just trying to focus on defending and rebounding and playing for each other.”
Markus Howard scored 23 points and Andrew Rowsey had 22 for Marquette. Rowsey had tears running down his cheeks as he sat on the bench in the final minutes.
The Wildcats missed eight of their first 10 3-point attempts before they decided to attack the lane for easy buckets and get the juice going in their offense. Donte DiVincenzo hit a 3 and Bridges converted a four-point play for a five-point lead. Bridges was also fouled on a tough basket underneath for a three-point play. He scored 16 points in the half and flashed the skills that made him an All-Big East pick.
The Golden Eagles, who needed the win to stay in NCAA Tournament contention, were a two-shooter show. Howard and Rowsey combined for seven 3s and 24 of Marquette’s 34 points. Howard and Rowsey would fire off 3s from about any spot on the court — and made just about all of them.