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Tyler Kolek scores career-best 32 points to lead No. 9 Marquette past Villanova 85-80

Texas Marquette Basketball
Posted at 9:33 AM, Jan 31, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-31 10:33:04-05

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — The Villanova hype man shouted into the microphone moments before tipoff that it was time for fans — Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright among them — to get pumped.

"We've got a top-10 team in the building Nova Nation," he bellowed to mild applause.

There was indeed a top-10 team in the house.

Only it wasn't the home team ranked that high, once a familiar spot for Villanova for so many years under Wright. Long a national power, the Wildcats instead are floundering on their longest losing streak in 13 years.

Tyler Kolek hit five 3-pointers and scored a career-high 32 points to lead No. 9 Marquette to its fifth straight win, 85-80 over Villanova on Tuesday night.

The reigning Big East player of the year rallied the Golden Eagles (16-5, 7-3) after they squandered a 20-point cushion. With the Wildcats on fumes after a 34-10 run gave them the lead, Kolek connected on four 3s that sparked Marquette.

He made two straight for a 56-51 lead. Kolek, already a 1,000-point career scorer, hit another 3 for a 62-56 lead and one more for a seven-point lead that helped Marquette hold on for the tough road win.

Kolek was 10 of 20 from the floor and 7 of 8 at the free-throw line.

"When you have the best player on the court, you typically win," Marquette coach Shaka Smart said.

TJ Bamba and Eric Dixon led Villanova (11-10, 4-6) with 24 points apiece. Dixon hit a late 3 that made it 81-78 with 38 seconds left, only for Kolek to seal the win from the foul line.

With two national championships in the last decade suddenly not enough to soothe restless fans, the Wildcats have lost five straight games for the first time since the end of the 2011 season.

Villanova coach Kyle Neptune was lightly booed in pregame introductions by a fanbase that rarely turns on its own.

The Golden Eagles — who started Villanova's skid with an 87-74 win two weeks ago — then piled on to the misery on the Main Line. Without a 3-pointer, Marquette took a 15-2 lead just 6 1/2 minutes into the game.

Neptune stuck his hands in his suit pockets and paced near the free-throw line as the Wildcats called a 30-second timeout to regroup. Marquette hit 11 of its first 14 shots and led by 15 on the way to opening a 37-17 advantage.

With Wright sitting just five rows off the court, Wildcats fans again booed as the game seemed poised to get out of reach. One Villanova student wore a T-shirt with " Fire Neptune " scrawled on the front.

"I didn't hear anything," Neptune said. "My job is to come out and prepare these guys the best I possibly can."

Even with the losing streak, the Wildcats were 2 1/2-point favorites at tipoff, per FanDuel SportsBook. And they were still on the brink of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, as a last four out, per Bracketology.

"I think Kyle Neptune has done a heck of a job," Smart said.

The Wildcats had some fight.

Mark Armstrong hit a twisting layup and buried a 3 at the horn that closed a 14-2 run to end the half and pulled the Wildcats within eight. Villanova erased the entire 20-point deficit to take a 48-47 lead early in the second.

BIG PICTURE

Marquette: The Golden Eagles have won three games on the road during their winning streak. They beat Villanova without Kam Jones (ankle), who averages 13.9 points per game. Tre Norman took a knee to the back of the head in the first half. Chase Ross gave Marquette a boost with 11 points in his first game since Jan. 6. He had been sidelined by a shoulder injury.

"For our guys to hang in there and stay tough in that last third of the game was huge," Smart said.

Villanova: While the boos may rain on Neptune, the Wildcats may be wise to remember what happens when they preach patience. Wright didn't make the NCAA Tournament until his fourth season.

UP NEXT

Marquette plays Saturday at Georgetown.

Villanova hosts Providence on Sunday.