Freshman Phil Booth had six points for the Cats.

By Harry Allison

You have to hand it to Villanova:

They sure know how to open a second half.

Darrun Hilliard scored 17 points, Ryan Arcidiacono added 16, including three 3-pointers, and No. 6 Villanova won at Marquette 87-76 on Saturday.

“A key was Arch coming out the start of the second half and hitting those 3s,” coach Jay 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 2 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.

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