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Villanova's late rally lifts Cats past Marquette

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.

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