VILLANOVA, Pa. - When the Big East Conference coaches voted for their preseason choices, they did so with little faith in Villanova finishing in the top tier, picking it to finish 12th out of 15 schools.
Their opinion on the Wildcats might change after Saturday night's impressive 60-56 win over No. 17 Marquette before 6,500 at the sold-out Pavilion. Villanova (18-10, 9-6 Big East) now sits in fifth place in the conference and made a strong case for an NCAA bid.
The win was the third over a ranked team this season for coach Jay Wright's team. The Wildcats defeated No. 10 Louisville (73-64) and eighth-ranked Syracuse (75-71) in back-to-back games in late January.
Darrun Hilliard led four Wildcats in double figures with 22 points. Freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston added 11 points apiece and Mouphtaou Yarou contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
Marquette (19-7, 10-4) received 12 points from Junior Cadougan. The Golden Eagles wilted under Villanova's pressure, committing 19 turnovers.
The Wildcats are 12-6 under Wright when they play a ranked opponent at the raucous Pavilion.
Marquette faces a difficult path in two of its last four games. The Golden Eagles face Syracuse and No. 25 Notre Dame in their next two contests.
Both teams shot the ball poorly in the first half, which was knotted at 21-21. Marquette was only 7 of 24 from the floor (29 percent), while Villanova sank just 6 of its 22 attempts (27 percent).
The Wildcats led 12-7 on a 3-pointer from Hilliard with 10:22 left in the half, but weren't able to connect from the floor until there was 3:51 to go. The Golden Eagles outscored them 11-4 to move ahead 18-16. Todd Mayo scored all of his seven first-half points off the bench for Marquette during the burst.
Hilliard and Arcidiacono combined for 15 points for Villanova in the half.
NOTES: Since the 2008-09 season when Buzz Williams took over, Marquette has posted a 21-21 record in Big East road games. Only Syracuse (30-13), Louisville (24-19) and Pittsburgh (23-20) have better road marks during that time span. … Saturday was just the 39th time Villanova hosted a ranked opponent at the Pavilion. The Wildcats are 19-19 in those games. … Marquette's Davante Gardner is fifth in the Big East in field goal percentage (.561), despite averaging just 21 minutes a game off the bench.