Darrun Hilliard tallied 14 of his game-high 22 points in the second half as Villanova continued its push for an NCAA Tournament berth by coming through with a 60-56 triumph over No. 17 Marquette at The Pavilion.
Hilliard shot 7-of-10 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range for Villanova (18-10, 9-6 Big East), which has now won three straight and five of its last six outings and knocked off its third ranked foe in the past month. The Wildcats posted victories over Louisville and Syracuse, both of which were in the top five at the time, in back-to-back tests on Jan. 22 and 26.
Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston contributed 11 points apiece to the win, while the Wildcats limited Marquette top scorer Vander Blue to seven points -- eight under his season average -- on a 2-of-8 success rate.
"Darrun was guarding [Blue] and did an amazing job on him," said Wildcats head coach Jay Wright. "I know he had 22 and we probably don't win the game without him, but you're not in a game like that unless you're defending like he's defending."
Junior Cadougan was the lone Marquette (19-7, 10-4) player to reach double figures, finishing with 12 points.
The loss moved the Golden Eagles one game behind Georgetown for first place in the Big East after the 11th-ranked Hoyas downed No. 8 Syracuse on Saturday.
"We were not 10-3 (in conference play) because we did something unique offensively or defensively," said Marquette head coach Buzz Williams. "We weren't 10-3 because we're the most-talented or best-coached. We were in a position to be in a position because of how hard we played. And we did not play hard enough today.'
A sequence of five straight points early in the second half staked Villanova to a 33-30 edge with just under 14 minutes to go, and the Wildcats stayed in front the rest of the way after staving off a belated comeback bid from the Golden Eagles down the stretch.
Clinging to a one-point lead with 10:52 left, Villanova embarked on a 9-2 burst capped by a Hilliard 3-pointer over the next three minutes to build a 46-38 advantage. The margin grew to 10 not long afterward, when Hilliard drove and scored with 4:57 remaining to put the Wildcats up by a 50-40 count.
Marquette would make a late run to get back in it, though, with Cadougan netting the final five points of a 7-0 tear that pulled his team within 56-52 with 19 seconds on the clock.
The Golden Eagles couldn't get the stop they needed, however, as Villanova's Mouphtaou Yarou threw down a dunk on the ensuing possession that essentially sealed the outcome.
The teams battled to a 22-22 tie at the end of a first half in which neither side could find a flow offensively.
Marquette got off to a brutal start, missing seven of its first eight field- goal attempts and turning the ball over five times in the game's initial five- plus minutes. The Golden Eagles were still able to stay close due to Villanova's own shooting woes, with the Wildcats starting out 4-of-19 from the floor until Arcidiacono knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:57 left in the period.
Marquette is now winless in five lifetime visits to The Pavilion ... The Golden Eagles finished with 19 turnovers for the game, with Villanova scoring 17 points off the miscues ... Yarou, who was honored along with teammate Maurice Sutton on Senior Night, chipped in 10 points and a team-best seven rebounds ... The Wildcats won for only the fourth time in 14 games this season when making fewer than six three-pointers, with Villanova going 4-of-13 from beyond the arc.