Saturday, March 14, 2015

Villanova Wins Its First Conference Tournament Title Since 1995

A lot can happen in 20 years and for the Villanova Wildcats, Saturday night was a night to remember.

Since former coach Steve Lappas led Villanova to an improbable BIG EAST Championship over highly touted Connecticut in 1995, Jay Wright would do the same at Madison Square Garden, but in different fashion.

Top-seeded Villanova (32-2 overall, 16-2 BIG EAST) showed the swagger of a team ready to contend for a national title as it dominated for the majority of the game as it throttled No. 6-seeded Xavier (21-13 overall, 9-9 BIG EAST) 69-52, to win its second BIG EAST Tournament Championship in the school's history.

"I'm thrilled for these guys because these are really special players, but also special Villanovans," Wright said.

The Wildcats' sixth-man and the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Josh Hart played the starring role as he finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 from the field, but deferred to his teammates after the game.

"I got to shout out to my teammates," Hart said. "The confidence they had in me. They kept on finding me when I was open."

From the mid-way point of the first half on, Xavier looked rattled and could not come up with an answer to stop Villanova from playing inside-outside basketball.
Playing three games in as many days is not the excuse coach Chris Mack would make in the post-game press conference.

"Well we weren't very good tonight," Mack said. "Villanova had a heck of a lot to do with it. I know the guys next to me and some of the guys in the locker room are tired of hearing it, but that's where the bar is in this league."

Jalen Reynolds and Dee Davis led the Musketeers with 13 points each. 

In front of a pro-Villanova crowd, Dylan Ennis put the crowd into a frenzy with a three-point make in the opening minute.

Xavier would counter with a couple of layups on back-to-back possessions from Remy Abell. Ennis would counter with a layup to put VU ahead by one.

Despite the tempo at a high level, both teams would miss numerous jump shot attempts before the first media timeout.

The Wildcats would hold the lead for the remainder of the first half as their lead grew to as many as 16 points at 34-18.

Xavier would strike last in the opening half on Abell's three-pointer with 40 seconds left as it trailed by 13.

The beginning of the second half would see VU pick off right where it left off in the opening stanza as it went on an 8-0 run— capped off by a triple from Arcidiacono.

The Musketeers looked rattled and could not find an answer as it would get no closer than 13 points as the Wildcats cut down the nets in a sea of dark blue and white fans at the mecca of hoops in New York City.

Looking Ahead:

While Villanova will likely receive a No. 1-seed going into next week's NCAA Tournament Sunday night, Wright likes the possibility of going back to Pittsburgh for an early-round game either Thursday or Friday.

"It would be nice if that happened in Pittsburgh," Wright said. "[Back] in 05, we were shocked how welcoming everybody from Syracuse was. It was unbelievable."

Xavier's seeding in the tournament will not be decided until Sunday's Selection Show.

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