Villanova coach Jay Wright loved the way his team opened the second half.
Darrun Hilliard scored 17 points, Ryan Arcidiacono added 16, including three 3-pointers, and No. 6 Villanova beat Marquette 87-76 on Saturday.
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"A key was Arch coming out the start of the second half and hitting those 3’s," Wright said. "It just kind of creates some separation and not letting them getting this place going."
After scoring five points in the first half, Arcidiacono got the Wildcats’ offense going when the first nine points of the second came on his three 3-pointers.
JayVaughn Pinkston, who had 14 points and four rebounds, made a fast-break layup during the opening surge that pushed Villanova’s 43-34 halftime lead to 54-38 with just two minutes gone.
"A good start like that was important because it allowed us to pressure them a little bit and forced them to have to come after us," Wright said.
Arcidiacono praised his teammates during that decisive stretch.
"A couple great screens by the guys and a couple good passes," he said. "And then, I felt good after one, so then I took a couple more."
Villanova maintained a comfortable double-digit lead for most of the second half, withstanding every Marquette attempt at an upset. In the closing minutes, Duane Wilson got Marquette to nine twice on two free throws and, moments later, a 3-pointer, but that’s as close as it got.
"They’re a great offensive team," Marquette’s Derrick Wilson said. "Obviously, that’s why they’re ranked in the top 10 in the country. That’s a team that’s tough to defend."
Dylan Ennis added 14 points as Villanova (25-2, 12-2 Big East) extended its winning streak to eight games.
Marquette was without starting guard Matt Carlino, who was averaging 17.3 points in 10 conference games. He missed his fourth consecutive game with a concussion suffered Feb. 4 during the Golden Eagles’ 70-52 loss at Villanova.
Wright had set up his game plan anticipating that Carlino would play.
"We prepared coming up for this game for Carlino to play," Wright said. "We saw him on the bench at Creighton. If he’s out there traveling, he’s probably going to play. We prepared a lot for him."
Marquette missed Carlino, and Wright knew it.
"They played differently without him," Wright said. "They’re tough without him."
Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said that Villanova is a tourney-bound team.
"They’re a team that can make it to the Final Four," he said. "They have experience. They’re very well coached."
Jujuan Johnson scored 20 points and Luke Fischer added 17 points for Marquette (11-15, 3-11), which dropped its third straight and slipped to 0-6 against ranked teams this season.
Neither team could pull away in the first half until a brief bit of chippiness between Marquette’s Duane Wilson and the Wildcats’ Daniel Ochefu with 6:04 left and Villanova holding a four-point lead. The two got tangled up in a scramble for a rebound and words were exchanged. The refs separated them and called a double technical.
Johnson made two free throws to pull Marquette to 26-24, but Villanova opened a 14-point lead with Hilliard capping a 15-3 run with his third 3 in the half.
Villanova: Hilliard had 14 points in the first half on 4 of 8 shooting, including three 3’s. … The Wildcats beat the Golden Eagles for the fifth straight time.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles made 4 of 10 free-throw attempts in the first half, but were better in the second when they connected on 11 of 15.
EDGING CLOSER TO A TITLE
With four regular-season games left, the Wildcats’ victory over Marquette has the team shooting for a second straight outright league title, a feat that’s eluded them in the 34-year history of the Big East. It’s their best chance since winning the 1981-82 regular-season title and sharing it the following year.
Marquette fell into a last-place tie with Creighton with the loss.
CAN’T STOP THE 3
Coming in, Marquette’s last seven opponents shot 42.8 percent from 3-point range. Villanova was even better. The Wildcats shot 52.4 percent, making 11 of 21 from beyond the arc, including 6 of 12 in the first half.
Michael Mache, a redshirt sophomore walk-on, made his Marquette debut with 29.8 seconds left to play.
Villanova: Hosts Providence on Wednesday night, the Wildcats’ final home game of the season.