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.
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).
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.