It was tougher than expected, but Villanova wins another Big East crown – Men’s College Basketball Blog


NEW YORK — Villanova romped through its first two days at the Big East tournament.

The final was a whole other story.

After pummeling Marquette and Butler by 24 and 19 points on Thursday and Friday, the Wildcats got everything they could handle and more in Saturday’s championship game before defeating Providence 76-66 in overtime at Madison Square Garden.

The Friars overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half and actually had a shot to win the game in regulation. With the score tied at 60, Kyron Cartwright — who played brilliantly, with 19 points and six assists — missed a pull-up jumper in the closing seconds.

Mikal Bridges hit two big 3-pointers early in overtime, and Jalen Brunson added a critical bucket to make it 70-66. The Wildcats closed it out from there. Brunson and Bridges finished with 31 and 25 points, respectively. It tied a career high for Brunson.

Providence (21-13, 10-8) deserves a ton of credit. They were playing their third overtime game in three days, after slipping past Creighton 72-68 in the quarterfinals and then coming back from 17 down to defeat Xavier 75-72.

The Friars are the only team in the country with three wins against top-five ranked opponents, thanks also to victories over Villanova and Xavier in the regular season. They couldn’t quite make it four, but they’ll be a tough out in the Big Dance.

So will Villanova (30-4, 14-4), of course, who looked scintillating here Thursday and Friday, then showed their steel in emerging on top Saturday.

It’s the Wildcats’ fourth Big East tournament title — including the past two years, and three of the past four.

After opening this season 22-1, the Wildcats hit a rough patch — well, about as rough a patch as a team with a record of 30-4 can have — in losing three of six games during one stretch of February. But starting guard Phil Booth was out injured for two of those losses, and fellow starter Eric Paschall missed one of them, as well.

“Now that we’ve got everybody back, we’re back kind of playing how we did before the injuries,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said Friday, after the semifinal win over Butler. “So it’s just a weird year that way. But it’s kind of interesting now. I think we feel we’re a new team, rather than a team that’s kind of stale at the end of the year.”

These Wildcats are not unbeatable. Brunson and Bridges carried them on Saturday, scoring 56 of the team’s 76 points. They’ll need more help from the supporting cast.

“Providence defensively was unbelievable,” Wright said. “Just a really gutty performance. I’m proud of our leadership.”

But the fact remains: Villanova won a trophy on Saturday night. And they’re certainly capable of winning one more in San Antonio.

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