It appears inevitable that every team in the highly competitive Big East will hit a slump at some point. Heading into Wednesday night's game at The Pavilion, Villanova appears desperate to avoid prolonged struggles while Marquette is hoping it has fought its way through such a funk.
The No. 12 Wildcats (17-4, 5-3) have dropped two straight and three of four as they have gone cold offensively. While Villanova hit 11 3-pointers in an 83-72 victory at then-No. 3 Syracuse on Jan. 22, it has averaged 64.3 points -- 11.7 below its season mark -- in the three defeats. The Wildcats have shot 24.5 percent from 3-point range and 36.1 percent overall in that span.Maalik Wayans and Corey Fisher each had 15 points in a 69-66 home defeat to then-No. 21 Georgetown on Saturday. The Wildcats shot 40.7 percent and failed to stop Austin Freeman, who scored 30 points."Georgetown just played better tonight," coach Jay Wright said. "We made a run at the end but they just played smarter and better early in the game."We are close to being the team we want to be but we definitely are not there yet."Corey Stokes has been a bellweather recently for Villanova. The senior guard scored 16 in the win over Syracuse but averaged 7.7 points while shooting 6 for 32 -- 4 for 18 from 3-point range -- in the three defeats.Stokes averaged 19.0 points in two games versus the Golden Eagles (14-8, 5-4) last season, and has shot 53.3 percent from 3-point range and 56.7 percent overall in seven career games against them. He fought his way through a toe injury Saturday and is expected to play in this contest.Marquette righted itself with a 76-70 victory over then-No. 9 Syracuse on Saturday and has a chance to salvage a split of its four-game run against ranked opponents. Jae Crowder scored 25 points and Jimmy Butler hit two pivotal 3-pointers late for the Golden Eagles, who shot 52.3 percent and outscored the Orange 24-8 at the foul line."It's just how volatile the league is, it's how volatile life is, it's just you compete against the best and that is a really hard thing to do," coach Buzz Williams said. "When you get beat you are like, 'Man we were so close...' And this league gives you opportunity, after opportunity, after opportunity to prove yourself."The Golden Eagles are 2-7 against Top 25 teams, with both wins coming at home. They are starting a three-game road swing that also takes them to South Florida and No. 13 Georgetown over the next 11 days.Darius Johnson-Odom is averaging a team-high 16.5 points overall and 19.9 in conference play, while making 44.4 percent (24 of 54) of his 3-pointers on the season. Crowder -- averaging 13.5 points -- has had his two highest-scoring efforts against Big East foes, as he had 29 against West Virginia on Jan. 1.The last four games between these teams have been decided by four or fewer points. Last season, Villanova posted a pair of two-point victories before Marquette ousted the Wildcats from the Big East tournament with an 80-76 victory in the quarterfinals.The Golden Eagles are 0-3 at The Pavilion since joining the Big East in 2005.