LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Dominic James let the shot go and immediately raised his arms.
After making his third straight deep 3-pointer, the Marquette guard was ready to celebrate.
James scored 18 points -- 11 during a decisive second-half run -- to put an exclamation point on Marquette's return to the AP Top 25, as the 24th-ranked Golden Eagles raced by Louisville 74-65 on Monday night.
"This just happened to be my night," James said. "Big players step up at big moments. I knew it was my time for my team."
Marquette (16-4, 3-2) won its third straight behind a balanced attack that had four players in double figures and a defense that held the Cardinals (12-6, 2-2) to 42 percent shooting.
"We wanted to stay poised against their press and play our game," James said. "We didn't want to let the crowd rattle us."
The Golden Eagles committed just 13 turnovers in the face of constant pressure from the Cardinals and made 14 of 17 free throws. Not bad for a team that came in shooting 62 percent from the line.
Marquette had been ranked as high as eighth earlier in the season but dropped out of the poll after opening Big East play with consecutive losses to Providence and Syracuse. Wins last week over Connecticut and West Virginia pushed the Golden Eagles back into the Top 25 on Monday, and coach Tom Crean thinks they could stick around this time.
"The most important thing is we're starting to get better, we're starting to learn how to play," Crean said. "Dominic has had a lot to do with us getting better."
James was quiet for most of the game until the Cardinals pulled within 47-42 with 11:26 to play. He hit three straight 3-pointers, each well behind the line, and added a runner that gave the Golden Eagles a 60-46 lead.
"It was Dominic's night tonight," Crean said. "We got a lot of good play from a lot of good people, but it was Dominic's night."
David Padgett had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Cardinals, who couldn't find the shooting touch that helped them put together a modest two-game winning streak. Louisville was 4-of-18 from 3-point range after averaging 11.5 3s in wins over South Florida and Providence.
"We had been doing a fabulous job, even when we weren't shooting the ball well, we were passing the ball," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Tonight we didn't pass the ball, even on breaks we didn't pass it enough."
Louisville has lost 12 straight games to ranked opponents dating to the 2005 NCAA tournament.
"We weren't as sharp mentally," Padgett said. "We've got to make sure we learn from this."
Louisville's recently installed three-guard lineup struggled at both ends of the court. The Cardinals couldn't get into any consistent rhythm offensively and had now answer for James.
"They hit big shots or free throws to stay with the lead and that knocked down our momentum," Louisville guard Edgar Sosa said.
"This is how you grow up," Crean said. "Our team is building confidence."
Marquette trailed 28-22 with 4:11 left in the first half, but put together a 25-4 run over the game's next 9 minutes, eventually building a 47-32 lead.
Louisville reeled off 10 straight points to get back within five, but then James went to work.
"We played as hard as we could play, but they kept making one big shot after another," Pitino said. "They made shots with the clock winding down, tough shots and that's a credit to what they are doing."
Louisville pulled within 67-60 with 2:10 to play and forced a turnover, but Sosa missed a short jumper and Brandon Jenkins badly missed a 3-pointer. McNeal then put it away by scoring Marquette's last seven points on a dunk and five free throws.
- Jim Burr
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- Ed Corbett