Villanova Wildcats

Instant Replay: Villanova squeaks by Seton Hall to reach Big East tournament finals

Instant Replay: Villanova squeaks by Seton Hall to reach Big East tournament finals

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NEW YORK -- Josh Hart's follow of a Kris Jenkins miss with 9.6 seconds left gave Villanova a dramatic 55-53 win over Seton Hall Friday in the Big East Conference Tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
 
Villanova, which trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, rallied back, and after a furious last eight minutes that included four ties and six lead changes, Khadeem Carrington gave Seton Hall a one-point lead with a follow shot and free throw with 1:43 left.
 
Villanova had the ball with 18 seconds left still down one and Jenkins, the buzzer-beating hero of last year's national championship game, lined up for a three. This one missed, but Hart came soaring over Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado for the game-winning putback. He added a foul shot for the two-point lead.
 
Delgado missed a shot over Jenkins from the paint as time expired.
 
The game closely paralleled last year's Big East title game, when Seton Hall built an early 14-point lead, Villanova rallied back to take the lead, only to lose by two.
 
This time, the Wildcats made enough plays at the end to win despite a very ugly start.
 
Seton Hall took advantage of some terrible Villanova shooting to build an 11-point lead at 25-14 with 4½ minutes left in the first half.
 
Villanova opened the game missing 17 of its first 22 shots, and its five starters had just nine points after 15½ minutes.
 
But Villanova gradually began chipping away. A Hart three just before halftime cut the lead to seven, and a Mikal Bridges three on Villanova's first possession of the second half trimmed it to four.
 
The Wildcats took their first lead of the game at 41-40 with 9:18 left on a Hart steal and slam.
 
Neither team led by more than four the rest of the way.
 
Hart led Villanova with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Jalen Brunson added 13 points, including two huge jumpers in the final three minutes.
 
What it means
Villanova improved to 30-3 and Seton Hall fell to 21-11. This is the third straight year Villanova has won 30 or more games and the fourth time in school history.
 
This will be Villanova's third straight appearance in the championship game and eighth overall.
 
The Wildcats join Syracuse (1988-90), UConn (1998-00), Pitt (2001-04) and Louisville (2011-13) as the fifth school to make three straight appearance in the title game since the tournament's inception in 1980.
 
Villanova also reached the title game in 1981 (lost to Syracuse), 1982 (lost to Georgetown), 1988 (lost to Syracuse), 1995 (lost to UConn) and 1997 (beat Boston College)
 
The win was Villanova's third this year over Seton Hall after the Wildcats lost to the Pirates last year in the Big East championship game.
 
Seton Hall had won its last two Big East Tournament games against Villanova, in 2014 and 2016. This was Villanova's first since a 61-60 win in the first round in 2004.
 
Stat of the day
Villanova's five starters combined for just nine points in the game's first 15½ minutes, shooting 4 for 18 during that span.
 
Sick bay
Sophomore Mikal Bridges, who missed all but the first minute of the St. John's game on Thursday with a stomach virus, started and played 25 minutes, finishing with five points.
 
By the numbers
• Rodriguez led Seton Hall with 14 points and Carrington added 11 

• Kris Jenkins struggled again from the field, shooting 1 for 7 and 0 for 4 from three for four points.

• Villanova shot just 5 for 18 from three 

• The Wildcats shot 27 percent from the field in the first half (7 for 26) but 59 percent in the second half (13 for 22).
 
What's next
Villanova will play in the Big East Conference championship game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the Creighton-Xavier game scheduled for later Friday.

Villanova cruises in Phil Booth's return

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Villanova cruises in Phil Booth's return

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Phil Booth returned to Villanova's lineup, and it looked as if he never left.

Booth had 14 points in his comeback from a broken right hand that sidelined him for seven games, and Mikal Bridges scored 27 points to lead No. 3 Villanova to a 93-62 victory over DePaul on Wednesday night.

Eric Paschall had 16 points, and Jalen Brunson added 11 points and seven assists to help the Wildcats (25-3, 12-3 Big East) beat DePaul for the 16th straight time.

Booth played 16 minutes, going 4 for 6 from the field and 2 for 4 from. He was injured Jan. 23 against Providence, had his cast removed Friday and practiced Tuesday.

Wildcats coach Jay Wright was pleasantly surprised at Booth's speedy recovery -- and his play.

"It's great to have him back," Wright said about Booth, who entered averaging 11.6 points. "It's a tribute to him. It looked like he never had anything wrong at practice. He looked good tonight, completely fine. It just amazes me."

Booth entered 2:53 into the contest and made his presence felt, scoring eight points in eight minutes to help the Wildcats to their 16-point halftime lead.

"It felt good to be back out there," Booth said. "A little rust but I wasn't worried about offense. My hand felt great."

Max Strus scored 21 points for the Blue Demons (10-17, 3-12).

The Wildcats had a comfortable 46-30 lead at the break. They surged to a 27-point advantage with 17:47 left in the contest by scoring 13 of the first 15 second-half points over 2:13. Bridges capped the run with a 3-pointer that made it 59-32 and practically erased any chances of a DePaul comeback.

"Our hands were down, we were late to a couple of rotations," Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao said of the Villanova spurt.

Leitao said the Wildcats have so many offensive options, and adding Booth makes it even harder to defend them.

"They are back to being whole," he said.

The game was tied at 16 after a Strus 3-pointer with 11:09 left in the half, but the Wildcats slowly and methodically pulled away.

Bridges had 15 points and Paschall added nine in the opening 20 minutes. Villanova was 10 for 14 from the free-throw line while the Blue Demons didn't attempt a foul shot. For the game, the Wildcats finished 15 for 21 from the line while DePaul was 0 for 1.

Big picture
DePaul: The Blue Demons need a victory in one of their three remaining games to reach four conference wins, which would be their most since joining the Big East.

Villanova: The four-time defending Big East champion Wildcats also have three regular-season games remaining. They are tied for first place with Xavier but own the tiebreaker with the Musketeers after beating them twice, including Saturday's 95-79 win at No. 4 Xavier.

Wright stuff
Wright recorded his 411th win at Villanova to close within two victories of tying Alexander Severance for first place in all-time coaching victories. In his 17th season at Villanova, Wright improved to 17-2 against DePaul.

Series dominance
The Wildcats have won 26 of the 34 matchups, with DePaul's last win coming Jan. 3, 2008. Villanova won at DePaul 103-85 on Dec. 27 in the other contest of this season's two-game series.

Strus for 3
Strus made three 3-pointers, finishing 3 for 9, to up his single-season total to 74 and pass Quentin Richardson for second-most in a season. Drake Diener, with 85 in the 2004-05 season, tops the list.

Up next
DePaul: Host Marquette on Saturday.

Villanova: At Creighton on Saturday.

Up-and-down week has Villanova steady in AP poll

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Up-and-down week has Villanova steady in AP poll

For the second week in a row, Jay Wright's Villanova squad endured a stunning upset and then followed it up with a statement victory.

And for the second week in a row, the Wildcats held steady in the AP Poll.

After falling 76-71 at Providence on Valentine's Day and then forcefully handling No. 4 Xavier 95-79 in enemy territory on Saturday, Villanova checks in at No. 3 in the AP Poll for the second straight week. This after the 'Cats spent the five weeks prior sitting pretty as the No. 1 team in the land.

The commanding victory at Xavier wasn't enough to propel Villanova ahead of No. 1 Virginia and No. 2 Michigan State. The Cavaliers received 42 first-place votes and the Spartans received 19 first-place votes. The Wildcats garnered four first-place votes for themselves.

Xavier held firm at No. 4 and Duke checked in at No. 5 to round out this week's top five.

March is looming and that means the Big East grind is winding down. The Wildcats, 11-3 in conference play and sitting in second place in the Big East behind 12-3 Xavier, own the tiebreaker over the Musketeers after Saturday's win. They have four regular-season contests left, starting with a home date vs. DePaul on Wednesday night. This week ends with a trip to Creighton on Saturday afternoon.

Take care of business and once again it looks like the Big East goes through Villanova, which has won the last four Big East regular-season titles.