MILWAUKEE - Marquette's players walked into the Bradley Center last night wearing white jerseys instead of gold ones as a rallying point after dropping three straight games.
Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean said it was an idea spawned by the players, an example of "togetherness" that helped them beat Villanova, 80-67.
Although Villanova has a tight-knit team, the Wildcats are missing some of the things that come simply from playing together for more than a season. The little things that come from experience have caused some of the big problems that result in losses.
Last night, those things added up to a defeat against No. 16 Marquette (22-7, 9-5 Big East) in a key part of the regular season.
"We just don't have a rhythm," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "[Marquette will] drive, [make the] extra pass, extra pass, extra pass, and they get a wide-open look. We still drive, extra pass, shot. It's just playing together and having a feel for each other."
Villanova (18-9, 6-7) is stacked with freshmen and sophomores. And even senior Curtis Sumpter, who sat out last season with a knee injury, has had to feel his way with sophomores Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark.
Yes, it's late for introductions, but the Wildcats are still getting to know each other.
"They're young," Wright said of Marquette. "They've got freshman and sophomores, but their core has played together. We can do it, but we've got to do it quick."
The Wildcats also lost a lead to fall to No. 14 Georgetown, 58-55, Saturday at the Wachovia Center.
A win against either the Hoyas or Marquette would have helped lock up an NCAA tournament bid for Villanova.
With three more so-called winnable games on the schedule, the Wildcats aren't at desperation point yet. They are in a crowded middle of the pack in the Big East.
However, Villanova's offense goes unpredictably from hot and cold like a low-budget hotel's shower water.
The Wildcats surged to a 28-19 lead against Marquette in the first half. Then they did not score a field goal for nearly 61/2 minutes and allowed the Golden Eagles to tie the game at halftime, 33-33.
Same thing in the second half.
With the game tied at 41 apiece early on, Villanova suddenly hit a drought and went nearly six minutes without a bucket as Marquette took a 53-44 lead.
"I hate to use [youth] as an excuse, but we just go through droughts where we can't score," Wright said.
Sumpter said it was not a case of contagious poor shooting or mental lapses.
"We just miss our shots or it's good defense by our opponents," said Sumpter, who finished with 14 points.
Villanova point guard Scottie Reynolds made another strong case for himself as the Big East freshman of the year, scoring a game-high 25 points.
"If there's a better freshman guard in the nation, I don't know who it is," Crean said.
In the first half, Reynolds went 6 for 11 from the floor, including 4 for 7 on three-pointers, but he was held to 1 for 4 shooting in the second half.
It did not help matters that the Wildcats could hardly get down the court without picking up a foul (27 in the game).
Reynolds, Sumpter and Cunningham finished the game with four apiece, while Clark fouled out.