Big East Tournament

Villanova beats Seton Hall to become first team to win three consecutive Big East Tournament titles

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Villanova beats Seton Hall to become first team to win three consecutive Big East Tournament titles

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NEW YORK — Villanova became the first team to win three consecutive Big East Tournaments, beating Seton Hall 74-72 on Saturday night behind seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth and key contributions from freshman Saddiq Bey.

Seton Hall star Myles Powell, guarded closely by Booth, missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds that could have won it. Booth was called for traveling as he tried to corral the rebound, however, and the Pirates got one more chance with 0.4 seconds left. Anthony Nelson's long inbounds lob bounced off the backboard and was slapped away by the Wildcats, who got to party on the Madison Square Garden floor yet again.

"This one is special, very special. This team has taught me so much," Booth said during the postgame ceremonies at center court. "These young dudes are like a fresh breath of air for me, being around them."

The 25th-ranked and top-seeded Wildcats (25-9) were in the Big East final for a fifth straight year, and have won four of the last five championships. The only loss during that span was to Seton Hall in 2016, and Powell and the third-seeded Pirates (20-13) gave Villanova all it could handle once again.

"Can't thank Phil and Eric for their leadership enough," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "They've been great examples of what a Villanova basketball player is their whole career."

Powell scored 25 points to cap a spectacular three days in Manhattan for the high-scoring guard.

Paschall had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Booth scored 16 and was selected most outstanding player of the 40th Big East Tournament.

Bey, who Villanova fans hope will lead the next wave of championship teams, had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

"Our team loves playing here in the Garden," Wright said.

Villanova had a chance to seal it in the final 30 seconds but Paschall was called for a charge when he lowered his shoulder into Myles Cale with 24 seconds left. Powell quickly scored inside at the other end to cut the Wildcats' lead to 73-72 with 15.5 seconds left.

The Pirates sent Paschall to the line with 13.7 seconds remaining and he made the first and missed the second. Seton Hall rebounded and called a timeout to set up a final play with 8.9 seconds left.

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Seton Hall: Nelson scored 12 points off the bench for the scrappy Pirates, but other than Powell, they had a hard time finding offense. They did force 14 turnovers. They'll go as far as Powell and a tough defense will take them in the NCAAs.

Villanova: The Wildcats also got key contributions from sophomores Jermaine Samuels (12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (six points and seven rebounds). The inexperienced players have provided inconsistent production much of the season, and if Wright's team is going to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats will need more games like this one from the young guys.

"Things were rocky right until the last second of this game," Wright said. "It's been a rocky season."

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Seton Hall: The Pirates are headed to their fourth straight NCAA Tournament, matching a school best (1991-94).

Villanova: The defending national champions will be in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight season, but will probably be seeded worse than a 2 for the first time since 2013. Villanova also won the 2016 national title.

Villanova rallies past Xavier for OT win, advances to 5th straight Big East championship game

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Villanova rallies past Xavier for OT win, advances to 5th straight Big East championship game

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NEW YORK — Phil Booth scored 28 points, Jermaine Samuels hit a trio of critical 3-pointers and No. 25 Villanova rallied past Xavier 71-67 in overtime Friday night to reach its fifth consecutive Big East championship game.

The top-seeded Wildcats, trying to become the first school in the 40-year history of the Big East to win three straight tournament titles, will play second-seeded Marquette or third-seeded Seton Hall on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

In a scintillating opener to the semifinal doubleheader, Villanova (24-9) erased a seven-point deficit in the last 3 minutes of regulation. Booth and fellow senior star Eric Paschall each scored five points in the extra period as the defending national champions held off a determined Xavier squad.

Paul Scruggs scored a career-high 28 points and Zach Hankins added 18 on 8-of-10 shooting for the fourth-seeded Musketeers (18-15), who had won seven of eight. Scruggs, a sophomore guard, also had 11 rebounds and seven assists, carrying Xavier all night with an outstanding performance.

Musketeers leading scorer Naji Marshall was limited to a season-low two points on 1-of-12 shooting, including 0 for 7 from 3-point range. He fouled out early in overtime after playing nearly 40 minutes.

Xavier has reached the semifinals in all six seasons since joining the Big East, but its only appearance in the championship game was a loss to Villanova in 2015.

Samuels finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Villanova. Paschall scored 12, including the 3-pointer that put the Wildcats ahead to stay early in overtime.

Booth was one point shy of his career high set against Kansas on Dec. 15.

After trailing by 10 late in the first half, the Wildcats were still down seven with 3 minutes left when they finally made their move.

Samuels sank a pair of 3s, including one that caromed high off the front rim, the backboard and through to trim the deficit to 57-56 with 48.9 seconds remaining.

Hankins hit one of two free throws at the other end, and Paschall tipped in a miss by Booth to tie it at 58 with 7.6 seconds to go.

Marshall was called for a charge as he tried to win it with a floater, but he intercepted Villanova's inbounds pass at halfcourt with 1.6 seconds left and missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, sending this one to overtime.

Scruggs, who came in averaging 12.1 points per game, scored 15 in the first half. He made all five shots from the field, banking in a fortuitous 3-pointer from the left corner high off the glass, to help Xavier build a 34-28 lead at the break.

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Xavier: Despite a late push, it appears the Musketeers will miss the NCAA Tournament after making five consecutive appearances and 12 in the past 13 years. They were a No. 1 seed last year, but got off to a slow start this season under first-year coach Travis Steele and couldn't overcome a six-game losing streak in the middle of the Big East regular season.

Villanova: Improved to 13-2 in the Big East Tournament since the 2013-14 realignment. The Wildcats are in the championship game for the 10th time, tying Connecticut for third-most behind Syracuse (15) and Georgetown (13). Syracuse (1986-90) is the only other school to make it in five straight years.

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Xavier: Will hope for postseason bid Sunday, perhaps to the NIT.

Villanova: Split two regular-season meetings with Marquette in February, with each school winning at home. Also split with Seton Hall, losing 79-75 on the road in the regular-season finale last Saturday.

No surprise, Villanova delivers in crunch time to beat Providence, advance in Big East Tournament

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No surprise, Villanova delivers in crunch time to beat Providence, advance in Big East Tournament

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NEW YORK — With its chances of a third straight Big East Conference Tournament title on the line, the players who carried No. 25 Villanova most of the season stepped up and took control.

Eric Paschall had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Collin Gillespie hit two 3-pointers in a game-deciding 17-5 run and point guard Phil Booth was a steadying influence as the top-seeded Wildcats beat Providence 73-62 in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

"Coach tells us we have to lead by example, talk to our younger guys and just do all the little things — playing defense, rebounding, not worrying about if our shot's going in," Paschall said. "I just feel like our whole team has been doing that. Our whole team's had a great attitude, and we're taking a step in the right direction."

Gillespie added 19 points and six assists and Booth had 13 points as the top-seeded Wildcats (23-9) beat the Friars (18-15) for the third time this season.

The defending national champions will face fourth-seeded Xavier (18-14) in the semifinals Friday at Madison Square Garden. The Musketeers edged fifth-seeded Creighton 63-61 in the second quarterfinal.

Nate Watson had 15 points to lead Providence, which was playing its second game in 18 hours. Alpha Diallo and Isaiah Jackson added 14 apiece for the Friars.

"I feel like the second half, we made adjustments and came out and gave ourselves a chance," Jackson said. "Just lack of discipline in the second half kind of hurt us -- late switches, miscommunication, offensive rebounds, threes — it just killed us in the second half."

Providence rallied from eight down to tie the game at 44 on a 3-point play by Diallo with 9:18 left.

Gillespie, who was 7 of 15 from the field, then took over. He hit a pair of 3-pointers in the big run while Paschall had a basket and 3-pointer. Providence drew to 63-58 on two free throws by Jackson but came no closer.

"He's the guy that really had the significant playing time last year, even though it wasn't a lot, but we count on him in some clutch situations," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Gillespie. "Again, he's another guy who's a sophomore and kind of treating him like a senior. He's got to be a leader, and he's got a lot on his shoulders too. He's been awesome all year."

The opening 20 minutes was a series of runs. Providence took a 9-2 lead and the Wildcats responded with 15 straight points. The Friars came back and led 23-22, but Villanova closed the half with a 9-1 run that featured 3-point baskets by Gillespie, Cole Swider and a three-point play by Booth.

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Providence: Hoping to get in the NIT.

"If we get in, I'll be very excited. I hope we do," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "If we're not, I'm going to be really proud of the guys and the effort that they had. But we left a lot of games on the table with our inconsistent approach in some of the games."

Villanova: Assured an NCAA Tournament berth.

Up next

Providence: Will probably end up in NIT.

Villanova: Plays Xavier in semifinals Friday. The teams split in the regular season, with the Musketeers winning the second game 66-54.