PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Jay Wright thinks his team played well for 35 minutes on Tuesday night, but the last five minutes proved to be Villanova’s downfall.
The Wildcats let a double digit lead slip away and lost to Big East rival Marquette. It was just the second loss of the season for the defending national champions, who will look to rebound against Virginia on Sunday. Players such as Mikal Bridges believe the Wildcats learned their lesson in Milwaukee.
“I felt like we weren’t always playing hard,” said Bridges. “We let up when we were up and just got comfortable. We started out real well in the first half. To win that game, we should have kept the intensity up, but we didn’t.”
Villanova vows to keep the intensity up on Sunday at the Center against Virginia. The 12th ranked Cavaliers have one of the top defensive teams in the country and the Wildcats lost to Virginia last season. Villanova Coach Jay Wright believes playing Virginia will help his team in the long run no matter what the outcome is on Sunday.
“We think they’re one of the best in the country,” Wright said. “They’ve got great length and they’ve got great execution and great discipline. We feel like after we play Virginia, we know exactly what our strengths and weaknesses are.”
There will be a palpable buzz at the Center on Sunday when the Wildcats and Cavaliers do battle. The game is already sold out and will be in the national spotlight during the Super Bowl bye week. Forward Kris Jenkins knows he and his teammates will have to play at a high level to avoid another defeat.
“You’re always playing against teams that are on the rise and getting better,” said Jenkins. “This next game on Sunday is going to be a great test for us and a great test for our mentality to see where we are in our habits. We’re going to learn from our next game like we do from our other ones.”
Villanova is hoping to have learned from its mistakes on Tuesday. The Wildcats are in the middle of the grind of late January as they get ready for the stretch drive. For Wright and his players, it is time to move forward with a difficult test awaiting on Sunday.
“I know how much they love to win.” Wright said. “I don’t have to say anything. I know those losses shock our guys and they’re a great wake-up, but i don’t talk about it because I don’t want to have to get losses to concentrate on details. That was what the talk was about.”