No. 17/20 Marquette Travels To Villanova Saturday Night

Junior guard Vander Blue is a candidate for league's most improved player.

Feb. 21, 2013

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TV Info: ESPN2/WatchESPN | Radio Info: 540 ESPN

The No. 17/20 Marquette University men's basketball team (19-6, 10-3 BIG EAST) wraps up a two-game road swing Saturday night at Villanova (17-10, 8-6 BIG EAST) at 5 p.m. CT in The Pavilion. ESPN2 will feature Marquette's 16th national television broadcast of the campaign, with Mike Patrick (play-by-play) and Len Elmore (analyst) calling the action.

Following Saturday night's matchup, the Golden Eagles return home for a pair of matchups against nationally ranked opponents in No. 8/8 Syracuse (Feb. 25) and No. 25/25 Notre Dame (March 2). The matchup with the Orange will be featured as part of ESPN's Big Monday package at 6 p.m. CT from the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Trip To Potential Title Will Happen On The Road

Marquette enters play Saturday night in possession of a share of first place in the BIG EAST Conference with a mark of 10-3, a record also matched by Syracuse and Georgetown.

Should the Golden Eagles wish to remain in first place, however, the team must find success away from the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Three of the team's final five regular season games come on the road.

MU has claimed three true road victories in 2012-13, with all of the wins (Pittsburgh, USF, Seton Hall) coming in conference competition.

The team's efforts on the road under head coach Buzz Williams has played a large role in the program's overall success. Since the 2008-09 campaign when Williams took over, MU has posted a 21-21 record in conference road games (through Feb. 20). Only Syracuse (30-13), Louisville (24-19) and Pittsburgh (23-20) have records above .500 during that time span.

MU To Face Most Familiar BIG EAST Opponent

Villanova holds an 11-9 advantage in an all-time series that dates back to 1960, but over half of the matchups have come since the Golden Eagles joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06.

Saturday's matchup with the Wildcats will be the 10th between the two programs since fifth-year head coach Buzz Williams took over in 2008-09 (13th since 2005-06). MU hasn't faced any single BIG EAST opponent on more occasions that it has Villanova. The team is 4-5 versus the Wildcats under Williams, but still in search of the program's first-ever victory at The Pavilion.

Along with matchups in the BIG EAST Conference Championship, the two teams also squared off in the 1963 National Invitation Tournament and the 1980 NCAA Championship. Marquette downed the Wildcats 66-58 in the NIT, but fell 77-59 in the opening round of the NCAA's in Providence, R.I.

Blue Making Bid For Most Improved Accolades

Marquette junior guard Vander Blue has carried the team offensively in 2012-13 and as a result has elevated his game as much as any player in the BIG EAST Conference from last season.

The Madison, Wis., native has nearly doubled his scoring average from 2011-12 and owns improved shooting percentages in each of the three main categories. Blue has reached double figures in points on 19 occasions this year, including 12-of-13 league outings.

Blue is currently ranked 11th (15.0 ppg.) in the league in scoring in all games and jumps to sixth (16.4 ppg.) in conference-only outings. Last year, he contributed just 8.0 points per game during the league slate.

Gardner Candidate For League's Top Sixth Man

Junior forward Davante Gardner is ranked among the league leaders in four categories, despite coming off the bench in every game this season, and is averaging just 21.3 minutes per appearance.

He is contributing 12.0 points per game while shooting 56.1 percent from the field and is also tops on the roster with 5.0 rebounds per contest. He has reached double figures in points 19 times in 2012-13 and matched a season high in league action with 18 points in the win at Seton Hall on Monday night.

Gardner is 26th in scoring (12.0 ppg.), fifth in field goal percentage (.561), fourth in free throw percentage (.863) and 12th in offensive rebounds per game (2.08 orpg.) through games of Feb. 20.




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