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No. 4 Villanova Holds Off Marquette For 72-67 Win

Feb. 4, 2006

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - Villanova's shots were off the mark like they've rarely been all season and time was running out.

The only people who had no worries about pulling out the victory were all inside the Wildcats' huddle.

"There was no frustration at all," guard Randy Foye said. "Every time we come to the huddle, we just say it's all right, just keep on playing defense, don't worry about offense and we're going to score."

They scored in bunches when they really needed the points.

Allan Ray scored 28 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:54 left, to help No. 4 Villanova rally late for a 72-67 victory over Marquette on Saturday.

The Wildcats (17-2, 8-1 Big East) are off to their best start in conference history and needed one impressive comeback to reach that feat. Down seven points with 3:30 left in the game, Villanova went on a 12-0 run - highlighted by Ray's 3 - that left Marquette (16-7, 6-4) simply stunned over a game it should have won.

"It's just a joy to be a part of games like this," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

Villanova shot 32 percent, committed 14 turnovers and seemingly had no answer for Steve Novak who thwarted nearly every Wildcats' rally with a 3-pointer.

Just not at the end when the Wildcats reverted to their normal form.

After free throws pulled Villanova within four, Ray picked off a pass in the backcourt and converted the easy basket that made it 63-61. Then after another Golden Eagles turnover - one of 25 - Ray hit his fourth 3-pointer from the right side for a 64-63 lead that send the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

"I'm just feeling real confident with my shot right now," Ray said.

Villanova stretched the lead to 68-63 but freshman Dominic James scored for Marquette and Jerel McNeal scooped a loose ball off a sloppy inbounds play and made a layup that pulled the Golden Eagles within 68-67 with 30 seconds left.



Novak was off on a potential-tying 3-pointer and the Wildcats made their free throws down the stretch to win their sixth straight game.

"They're such good shooters, so confident, that it's just a matter of time before they make plays," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "But for the most part, they had to earn what they got, as did we."

Foye added 24 points for the Wildcats. Villanova went 23-for-27 from the free throw line; Marquette was only 5-for-7.

"I wish I could tell you I knew this was going to happen, but I just think we're always going to win," Wright said. "I'm more shocked when we lose."

Novak had 18 points, James scored 15 and McNeal 14 for the Golden Eagles, who lost for the second time in three games as they try and make a strong push down the stretch to solidify their NCAA tournament chances.

Guard Kyle Lowry - who had a couple of clutch rebounds and free throws in the final minutes - did not start for disciplinary reasons, and 6-foot-9 forward Dante Cunningham took his spot to give the Wildcats a more traditional three-guard lineup.

Marquette played some inspired basketball in the first 37 minutes - including an 18-3 run in the first half - and nearly pulled off its second upset over a Top 10 Big East team this season. The Golden Eagles beat then-No. 2 Connecticut to open the conference season.

After a pretty quiet first half, Novak started hitting 3s to thwart Villanova runs. When the Wildcats sliced the gap to three, Novak hit one to make it 41-35. He sank another that gave Marquette a 10-point lead, then one more from the top of the 3-point arc for a 55-50 lead.

The Golden Eagles got the lead to nine but Ray and a suddenly scrappy defense took over.

"We still had a chance to win the game in the last few seconds," Crean said. "Their pressure bothered us at times. They don't get nearly the credit for their defensive abilities. They made just a few more plays in the last minute than we did."

Villanova retired the jerseys of Chris Ford and Tom Ingelsby, who both played on the 1971 team that reached the NCAA championship game.