Hilliard's Big Day Helps Lift No. 8 Wildcats Past Marquette 73-56
March 2, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
VILLANOVA SPORTS RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - A sizzling scoring day from junior Darrun Hilliardand a premium grade defensive effort helped No. 8 Villanova post a 73-56 victory over Marquette (17-12 overall, 9-7 BIG EAST) in a contest played Sunday before 15,026 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Hilliard established a new career high with 26 points as he connected on 7-of-11 field goals, including 5-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc. The total was one more than he produced in a 25-point outburst last season in an overtime win here at the Center over Syracuse on Jan. 25, 2013.
Villanova improved to 26-3. That establishes a new school standard for regular season wins, breaking a four-way tie at 25. It also moved to 14-2 in the BIG EAST, leaving it one game ahead of Creighton in the league standings with two regular season contests remaining on the slate.
"That was a good effort," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "I know Marquette is a good, hungry team and they play hard. It's hard to match that level. We have great respect for the way they play and the intensity they play with. I really liked the way our guys handled that.
Hilliard opened the game by draining a 3-pointer and his offensive work was an important storyline for Villanova in the game's early minutes. That production was especially important in this one with both of the Wildcats' co-captains, James Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono, picking up two personal fouls each in the first 6:01 of the game.
"Our leader, James Bell, got a little bit banged up in practice yesterday and got into foul trouble," noted Wright. "Arch got in foul trouble too. In the first half, though, I thought our energy level actually went up. I thought we were a quicker team. Offensively, we might not have been as efficient but our defense was actually better. Then those guys (Bell and Arcidiacono) were really fresh when they came back in the second half."
"We've been trying to build that depth through the season. That was very important for us to get that boost in the first half."
Hilliard and freshman Josh Hart did much of the scoring work in the early going as Hilliard piled up 13 points while the freshman from Silver Spring, Md., came off the bench to add seven more. A flurry of points capped by an old-school three point play by senior guard Tony Chennaultgave Villanova a 27-16 lead over the Golden Eagles with 6:31 to go in the first half.
The Golden Eagles reeled off seven points, though, to shave the Villanova margin to 31-25 as the close of the first half approached. But the Wildcats responded with a five point surge punctuated by a Hilliard triple set up by senior Tony Chennault.
"I thought that was a big play for us," stated Wright. "Tony executed that play perfectly and it got Darrun a three."
The count was 36-25 at intermission.
Triples early in the second half by Arcidiacono and Hilliard extended the advantage to 42-25 and the Wildcats were in command the rest of the way..
Hart ended the day with 13 points, his highest total since recording a similar number in a win over DePaul on Jan. 18. Junior JayVaughn Pinkstonchipped in with 11 points and seven caroms.
Deonte Burton led Marquette with 13 points in 13 minutes.
Villanova now sits atop the BIG EAST with a 14-2 record. Wright said the Wildcats won't, however, get too far ahead of themselves.
"It's good for today," he stated. "It doesn't matter until the end of the season. It's a cliché, but it's true."
The Wildcats will complete the regular season schedule later this week. Villanova makes its first visit to the Cintas Center in Cincinnati to face Xavier on Thursday night (Fox Sports 1) and then closes out the campaign on Saturday, March 8 at the Wells Fargo Center against Georgetown at 2:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1).