Indianapolis — When Villanova needed more out of Darrun Hilliard than usual Saturday, the senior guard thrived.
He knocked down 3-pointers, got the ball to open teammates and rallied the Wildcats.
Then, with the outcome in jeopardy, Hilliard took matters into his own hands, making an open 3-pointer from the left wing with 1.5 seconds left to give No. 6 Villanova a thrilling 68-65 victory over No. 18 Butler.
"They were taking all of our cuts away and we really had to play off of Darrun's decisions and JayVaughn (Pinkston's) decisions," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Fortunately, we have a couple of seniors that can do that. But it's not just all the shots Darrun made. … We played through him."
Hilliard delivered the best game of his college career.
He finished with 31 points and eight 3s to set career highs. His nine field goals matched his previous career best, set in December, and his eight rebounds were one short of a career high. He also played solid defense and, when it mattered most, Hilliard made the shot his team needed most.
"I guess I played very good," he said, trying to convince himself after Wright dished out the first compliment. "Obviously there are some improvements I can make. Offensively, I was getting open looks and my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball, setting screens. They did the hard work.' "
Now, Villanova (23-2, 10-2 Big East), winners of six straight and 10 of 11, can focus on taking care of the rest.
The Wildcats pulled off a second straight season sweep over Butler and lead the second-place Bulldogs (18-7, 8-4) by two games in the conference title chase.
Only one other Villanova player reached double figures: Pinkston had 12 points.
Hilliard did enough damage by himself, though, especially after catching Butler in a defensive switch on Villanova's last possession. That split-second of confusion was all Hilliard needed to free himself for the winning basket.
Butler could have forced overtime after Roosevelt Jones took the inbounds pass from Austin Etherington and zipped it to Kelan Martin, who also was open on the left wing. But his shot was off the mark.
"It was executed perfectly, except the shot didn't go in," Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. "We felt they were going to hug Kellen (Dunham) and Alex (Barlow), so we got the ball where we wanted it to go."
Dunham and Barlow each finished with 19 points, but after turning a 27-22 halftime deficit into a 44-39 lead with 13:37 to play, neither could help the Bulldogs pull away.
Instead, Hilliard rallied the Wildcats, who answered with five straight points to tie it. Hilliard followed that with back-to-back 3s to give Villanova a 50-48 lead and the Wildcats didn't trail again until Barlow's 3 with 2:43 left made it 63-62.
Hilliard didn't fret. With 1:24 left, he launched himself into Barlow, drawing a foul. Hilliard made all three free throws to give Villanova the lead.
Jones tied the score on an acrobatic layup with 17.3 seconds left, but Hilliard hit his 3 and Martin did not.
"We practice that every day," Hilliard said. "That happened earlier in the year and I missed it. It just so happened this time, it went down."
(At) No. 1 Kentucky 77, South Carolina 43: Willie Cauley-Stein scored 14 points, Aaron Harrison added 11 and Kentucky matched the program's best start. The Wildcats' 25-0 record equaled the 1953-54 squad that rolled through the regular season but declined an NCAA Tournament bid.
This year's talented squad is thoroughly focused on winning the school's ninth national championship and took another step toward its quest for perfection by completing a season sweep of the overmatched Gamecocks (12-12, 3-9 Southeastern Conference).
After holding South Carolina to 23 percent shooting in last month's meeting, Kentucky limited the Gamecocks to just 13 of 55 from the field (24 percent) this time, their second-worst outing this season.
The Wildcats quickly built a 20-point lead in nearly 12 minutes. Dakari Johnson added 13 rebounds and 10 points for Kentucky, which shot 50 percent.
(At) No. 2 Virginia 61, Wake Forest 60: Anthony Gill scored 19 points and Malcolm Brogdon stole the ball from Cody Miller-McIntyre to prevent a potential winning shot in the final seconds. Brogdon and London Perrantes added 11 points each for Virginia (23-1, 11-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which opened the second half with a 27-7 run to erase a 31-24 halftime deficit.
But while Virginia seemed likely to keep padding the lead as it has so often this season, Wake Forest (12-14, 4-9) wasn't on board, erasing almost all of a 13-point deficit in the last 101/2 minutes.
The Demon Deacons had a chance to tie when Miller-McIntyre had two free throws with 16.5 seconds to play. He made the first, but missed the second, but the Demon Deacons chased down the rebounds. After a timeout, they got the ball to Miller-McIntyre, and he was one on one with Brogdon at the top of the key. As the final seconds ticked off and Miller-McIntyre looked to make a move, Brogdon stole the ball.
(At) No. 3 Gonzaga 56, Pepperdine 48: Kevin Pangos scored 19 points and Gonzaga came back. Kyle Wiltjer added 13 points and Domantas Sabonis had 10 for Gonzaga (26-1, 14-0 West Coast Conference), which has won 19 consecutive games.
Stacy Davis scored 13 for Pepperdine (15-11, 8-7), which gave Gonzaga its toughest league test, losing by just two points at home in January.
No. 4 Duke 80, (at) Syracuse 72: Jahlil Okafor had 23 points and 13 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season, outplaying Syracuse big man Rakeem Christmas. Duke (22-3, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its fifth straight and withstood a standout performance from ex-Blue Devil Michael Gbinije, who scored a career-high 27 points for Syracuse.
Syracuse (16-9, 7-5) had exhibited plenty of grit in the two games since a postseason ban was announced as the school awaits the results of an NCAA investigation into the athletic department. The Orange had lost at Pittsburgh and won at Boston College.
(At) No. 8 Kansas 74, No. 16 Baylor 64: Kelly Oubre scored 18 points, including a clinching 3-pointer in the final minutes, and Kansas overcame a slow start. Junior forward Perry Ellis also had 18 points to reach 1,000 points for his career, and Wayne Selden Jr. finished with 15 points as the Jayhawks (21-4, 10-2 Big 12) dug out of a 13-point first-half hole to remain perfect in 13 matchups with the Bears (18-7, 6-6) in Lawrence.
Kansas was clinging to a 57-55 lead after the Bears' Rico Gathers made two foul shots with about 6 minutes left. But Ellis scored a couple of baskets around a midrange jumper from Landen Lucas, who had nine points off the bench, and the Jayhawks began to pull away.
Oubre's 3 from the top of the key, his fourth of the game, made it 67-59 with 1:59 left.
The win was the Jayhawks' 21st straight at Allen Fieldhouse, and ensures the 10-time champs would have no worse than a two-game lead in the conference race with six games to go.
N.C. State 74, (at) No. 9 Louisville 65: Anthony "Cat" Barber scored 21 points, hitting 10 of 13 free throws. The Wolfpack held Louisville to 33 percent shooting and dominated near the basket, outscoring the Cardinals 32-16 in the paint, to earn their second win against a top 10 conference opponent. N.C. State beat Duke on Jan. 11 and had lost six of eight since before Saturday's win.
Trevor Lacey had 14 points and Ralston Turner 10 for N.C. State (15-11, 6-7 Atlantic Coast Conference)
Chris Jones scored 20 and Wayne Blackshear added 19 for Louisville (20-5, 8-4 ACC).
Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell, Louisville's leading scorers, combined for just 14 points after scoring a total of 50 in Wednesday's 69-56 win against Pittsburgh.
The Cardinals fell to 78-2 in the last three years when leading at halftime. Louisville led 31-30 at the break.
(At) Pittsburgh 89, No. 12 North Carolina 76: Sheldon Jeter scored a career-high 22 points and hot-shooting Pittsburgh dominated North Carolina.
Cameron Wright added 15 points for the Panthers (17-9, 6-6 ACC), who shot 65 percent from the field (37 of 67) and never trailed while winning for the fourth time in five games.
Two of those victories have come at home against ranked opponents. Pitt edged Notre Dame two weeks ago but had no trouble against the Tar Heels (18-7, 8-4). The Panthers led by as much as 24 in the second half during their most impressive victory of an erratic season.
Brice Johnson led North Carolina with 19 points but the Tar Heels had no answer for Jeter in the program's first game since the death of retired Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith.
(At) No. 14 Iowa State 79, No. 21 West Virginia 59: Monte Morris scored 19 points and 14th-ranked Iowa State swept the season series. Abdel Nader added 16 points off the bench for the Cyclones (18-6, 8-4 Big 12). They remain two games back of league-leading Kansas with six games to play.
Iowa State blew open a tight game with a 14-2 run to start the second half. Monte Morris, who finished a point shy of his career high, led the charge with back-to-back 3s to help the Cyclones to a 50-34 advantage.
Juwan Staten had 16 points for West Virginia (19-6, 7-5), which has lost three of its last four.
No. 15 Wichita State 68, (at) Illinois State 62: Ron Baker scored 19 points and Wichita State overcame poor shooting with fierce defense. Fred VanVleet added 15 points and Evan Wessel scored 12 for the Shockers (23-3, 13-1 Missouri Valley Conference), who shot only 36.7 percent (18 of 49) from the field. Wichita State was much better at the free throw line, making 27 of 32.
DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell led Illinois State (15-11, 7-7) with 18 points, and Reggie Lynch added 10.
(At) Kansas State 59, No. 17 Oklahoma 56: Marcus Foster made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left and scored 14 points in his return from a three-game suspension. It was the second time this season that Foster hit a late 3 against the Sooners (17-8, 8-5 Big 12).
Buddy Hield had 14 points to pace Oklahoma but was held to his lowest point total since Jan. 5 against Baylor.
The Sooners matched their scoring low for the season set in a 69-56 loss to Wisconsin in the Bahamas.
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, a former Kansas State All-American, fell to 5-7 against his alma mater.
Kansas State (13-13, 6-7) established its late lead with only three field goals in the final 9 minutes. Free throw shooting was crucial as the Wildcats went 8 for 10 down the stretch and finished 28 of 36 for the game.
No. 20 VCU 79, (at) George Washington 66: Melvin Johnson scored 17 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and VCU snapped a two-game losing streak. Doug Brooks added 14 points and Mo Alie-Cox 10 for the Rams (19-6, 9-3 Atlantic 10), who entered part of a four-way tie for first place in the conference. After laboring from long distance over its previous five games, VCU sank 12 of 30 3-pointers against GW.
Patricio Garino scored 22 points and Joe McDonald 12 for the Colonials (17-8, 7-5).
GW also had lost three of four games including a stunning 78-62 setback at Duquesne on Wednesday.
Leading 48-47, VCU took command with a 10-1 run. After GW pulled within 58-53, Johnson's 3-pointer stopped the momentum shift. The Rams led 76-61 with 2:10 remaining on two free throws by Trevon Graham, who scored 10 points.
(At) TCU 70, No. 21 Oklahoma State 55: Amric Fields had 12 points and a big part in an upset-sealing run after the Cowboys had won three consecutive Big 12 games against ranked teams. The Horned Frogs (15-10, 2-10 Big 12) used a pair of 10-0 runs in the second half, the latter spurt coming in the closing 4 minutes to clinch the victory.
Oklahoma State (17-8, 7-6) was within 56-53 when Anthony Hickey found a wide-open gap and drove for a layup high off the glass with 4:52 left. The Cowboys then went nearly 31/2 minutes without scoring.
No. 24 Arkansas 71, (at) Mississippi 70: Manuale Watkins hit a short jumper with 6.4 seconds remaining. Arkansas (20-5, 9-3 Southeastern Conference) won for the seventh time in eight games to take sole possession of second place in the league.
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for Ole Miss. The Rebels (17-8, 8-4) trailed for nearly the entire game until LaDarius White hit a short jumper with 8:35 remaining to give them a 58-57 lead. It stayed close until the end, but Watkins' jumper proved to be the difference.
(At) No. 25 SMU 73, Connecticut 55: Markus Kennedy and Yanick Moreira scored 13 points each and the two big men combined for a couple of dunks that helped build a big first-half lead. The 6-foot-11 Moreira tossed an alley-oop to the 6-9 Kennedy for a dunk and found his frontcourt mate alone under the basket for another easy slam in the final seconds of the half to give the American Athletic Conference-leading Mustangs (21-5, 12-2) a 41-26 lead.
Ryan Boatright scored 19 to lead the Huskies (14-10, 7-5), who had a three-game winning streak stopped about 25 miles from where they won the national championship by beating Kentucky last April at the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys.