For the first time since 1995, Villanova won the Big East Tournament after crushing Xavier 69-52 Saturday night. For the third straight day, it was the Josh Hart show. Hart, the Big East 6th Man of the Year, was near perfect yet again, finishing with 15 points on 7-9 shooting.
Hart was most rightfully named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, finishing 21-29 from the floor in Nova’s three games. Even more impressively he finished 9-13 from behind the arc. He also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds for the ‘Cats.
Villanova used a 10-2 run late in the first half to propel themselves into a double-digit lead, which they refused to relinquish for the remainder of the game. The momentum at Madison Square Garden, which was filled with mostly Nova fans, never seemed to shift towards Xavier as the Wildcats were able to stymie the Xavier offense. The Musketeers shot just 38 percent as star big man, Matt Stainbrook was limited to just four points on 2-8 shooting. Jay Wright said, “We kept fresh bodies on him, Ochefu, Hart, Pinkston, and Jenkins.” Stainbrook had been dominating the Big East, averaging 19 points in the previous three games.
With 6:32 left in the game, Josh Hart fed Daniel Ochefu perfectly for a dunk, giving Villanova a 63-43 lead and bringing the Wildcat faithful to their feet. They knew a championship was near.
Once again, Villanova used an extremely balanced scoring attack. That was led by the strong effort of Dylan Ennis, whose 16 points led the game. He added six rebounds and three assists. Darrun Hilliard scored 12 points for the second straight night, knocking down three from behind the arc. But it was the team’s collective defense that shined brightly for Nova. Their perimeter defense was too much for Xavier to handle, as the Musketeers shot just 2-15 from behind the arc.
After Nova’s quarterfinal win over Marquette, Jay Wright said that his team was one of the worst defensive team’s he’d ever coached. After dominating Xavier he laughed as he said, “Well, we are getting there.” He said that the Providence game really prepared his team for both last night’s championship game and the NCAA Tournament.
It was a special night for Jay Wright as it was his first Big East championship. “I just love this tournament, this is my favorite tournament.”
For Xavier, Jalen Reynolds and Dee Davis both scored 13 points.