Villanova-Marquette Preview

Led by Darrun Hilliard, Villanova continues to ride improved 3-point shooting toward another Big East title.

The sixth-ranked Wildcats seek an eighth straight victory Saturday at Marquette.

Villanova (24-2, 11-2) owns a two-game edge over second-place and 19th-ranked Butler, essentially a three-game advantage after it swept the head-to-head series. The Wildcats are looking for a second straight outright league title, something they’ve never accomplished in the 34-year history of the Big East. They won the 1981-82 regular-season title before sharing the league title the following year.

They found their perimeter shooting touch near the season’s midway point and have yet to slow down. Villanova has hit 41.4 percent of 3-pointers while making 10.2 per game over an 11-1 stretch. It had shot 33.7 percent while averaging 6.9 makes previously.

Opponents have to account for multiple shooters, as five players have made 33 or more 3-pointers with each shooting at least 34.9 percent. Hilliard has averaged 18.1 points on 46.2 percent 3-point shooting during the seven-game winning streak after scoring 12.8 points per game and hitting 35.2 percent in his previous 18 contests.

The Wildcats were 12 of 27 from beyond the arc and Hilliard scored 18 in an 80-54 victory over Seton Hall on Monday.

"I think we were aggressive tonight, we just had good spacing throughout the game," said Ryan Arcidiacono, who scored 10. "We were able to catch and shoot and draw defenders and catch an extra pass here or there."

Villanova’s defense also continues to progress, limiting its last seven opponents to 56.7 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting since letting Georgetown shoot 51.1 percent in a 78-58 road loss on Jan. 19.

The Wildcats hit 11 of 26 3-pointers in a 70-52 win over Marquette on Feb. 4 for their fourth straight victory in the series. Arcidiacono scored 18 and was 4 of 7 from long distance. Hilliard was limited to 12 points after scoring 20-plus in three straight meetings.

Marquette (11-14, 3-10) would fall into a last-place tie with Creighton with a loss, and recent results don’t bode well for the Golden Eagles. Their last seven opponents have shot 42.8 percent from 3-point range, the Big East’s second-highest mark in that span.

They let the Bluejays hit 8 of 17 3-pointers in a 77-70 road loss last Saturday, their third straight game without leading scorer Matt Carlino (14.5 ppg). Carlino, who suffered a concussion against Villanova, is still day to day, coach Steve Wojciechowski said on his weekly radio show.

Though Marquette won its first game without Carlino 57-54 at Seton Hall on Feb. 7, they’ve since shot 37.3 percent in consecutive defeats.

The Eagles, losers of eight of nine overall, have averaged 57.8 points in going 0-5 against ranked teams.

"Overall I think our guys have played really hard. On a day-to-day basis we’ve tried to control the things that we control to the best of our ability," Wojciechowski said. "I wish we had a few more wins to show for it … There’s season left and we’ve got to continue to keep fighting."

Villanova needed overtime for a 94-85 victory at Marquette last season with Hilliard and Arcidiacono each scoring 20.