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James, Marquette use late run to top Villanova

Feb 26, 2008 - 5:16 AM By Vince DiGregorio PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- In a game of runs, 21st-ranked Marquette had the decisive one in the second half.

Dominic James had a game-high 25 points to lead the Golden Eagles to their fifth straight win, an 85-75 victory over Villanova in a Big East matchup at the Wachovia Center on Monday.

Lazar Hayward scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Marquette (21-6, 11-5 Big East), which kept alive its hopes of a first-round bye in the conference tournament in March. The Golden Eagles entered the day a game in the loss column behind idle Connecticut (10-4) for the fourth spot in the league standings.

"We know we can't control destiny with the other teams, but we can control our own," Marquette coach Tom Crean said.

Jerel McNeal had 14 points and Maurice Acker added 12 for Marquette.

Scottie Reynolds led Villanova (17-10, 7-8) with 14 points. Dante Cunningham had 13 points and 11 rebounds and freshman Corey Stokes scored 13 for the Wildcats.

"I played against (James) during the summer," Reynolds said. "I know his game. He was outstanding tonight. It was a collective effort by their team."

Villanova was leading, 54-53, midway through the second half when Acker hit a 3-pointer that gave Marquette the lead for good and started a 16-4 run that culminated with McNeal's three-point play on a goaltending call and a free throw with 6:19 left to make it, 69-58.

"It was a game of runs, (but) we knew toughness in the end would prevail," James said. "That was the difference."

James, who went 5-of-8 from the arc, hit consecutive 3-pointers during the outburst.

"I was just feeling it," James said. "My teammates gave me open shots. That's how we get our offense going. Making things happen."

The teams traded baskets the rest of the way as Villanova could get no closer than seven points.

"In the second half, we lost our defensive intensity," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

After the Wildcats opened the second half with a basket, the Golden Eagles went on a 16-2 run to take a 48-43 lead. Hayward had five points during the spurt.

"We were taking their punches the whole game," Hayward said. "We're a running team."

Villanova fought back to gain a 54-53 edge after Dwayne Anderson slammed home an offensive rebound. However, the Wildcats would ultimately commit 23 turnovers that led to 33 points for Marquette.

James and McNeal combined for 12 points to help stake the Golden Eagles to an early 12-7 lead.

The Wildcats responded with a 17-2 run to go ahead, 24-14, with 9:24 left in the half. Stokes had five points during the burst.

Marquette answered with a 14-2 spurt of its own to take a 28-26 advantage with 4:15 remaining. McNeal's pull-up jumper capped the outburst.

Villanova then outscored Marquette by a 13-4 margin to lead at the half, 39-32. The Wildcats outshot the Golden Eagles, 58 percent (14-of-24) to 44 (12-of-27), but committed 12 turnovers that led to 21 points for Marquette.

"(Villanova) was playing very well in the first half," Crean said. "Our guys were never going to back away. We knew we were going to have to play a full 40 minutes."