Madison Square Garden, NY. –Seton Hall played with a chip on their shoulders all season tired of hearing rumblings that there weren’t that good and they might not get out the opening round of the Big East Tournament.
The Wildcats pressured the ball for 40 minutes and Creighton turned the ball over 11 times in the first half. Villanova raced to a 30-22 with 3:22 left going into the half. Jalen Brunson went (4-4) 11 points, 3 assists and senior Josh Hart chipped in 15 points (6-14) shooting from the floor.
Villanova claims its third Big East Tournament title. The first when the Wildcats defeated Connecticut 94-78 in 1995 and in 2015 when they beat another No.6 seed Xavier 69-52. The Wildcats is 3-2 all-time in Big East Tournament Championship games and 2015 Tournament games. Villanova defeated the Huskies in 1995 and Xavier in 2015 for its title.
“We didn’t play particular well against Seton. Our ball pressure wasn’t the best for the 40 minutes. One of the things I emphasized with our kids going to the championship game is that we have to do a better job with our ball pressure and rebounding. In all phases of the game we did that and ultimately came out with the win.” Said Villanova Coach Jay Wright.
Creighton shot 46.7 percent from the field in the first half, but Villanova intense ball pressure and extended zone pressure made it difficult for the Bluejays to shoot over the top of the swarming pressure. Center Justin Patton tried to keep Creighton close with his physical play in the paint ending the first half with 6 points (3-6) shooting and 2 boards.
The Bluejays move to 0-2 in the tournament finals. Creighton shot 25 percent from the arc, setting a new tournament low for the Bluejays. Creighton has previously registered a .267 against Providence in 2014.
“ I think they only had eight points in the paint at halftime. But our mistakes that allowed the baskets for them, that was 11 to zip points off turnovers and ended up 21-7 and we lose by those 14 points. That’s too much to overcome against a team like Villanova. If you’re going to be successful, you have to value the ball, you have to take care of the basketball and not allow them to have those easy scoring opportunities.” Said Creighton Coach Greg McDermott.
After the break, the Wildcats stretched the lead to 20 points just after the first media timeout on a Josh Hart three from the corner. Villanova’s defense was stifling and the Bluejays began to become unglued. Creighton was unable to get into a flow
offensively, they settled for perimeter shots, which weren’t falling. The Bluejays attempts to get the ball into Patton on the blocks were effective in the first half but Villanova’s quick hands and transition offense allowed the Wildcats to capitalize on Creighton’s attempts to go inside in the second half.
The cats maintained a 15+ point lead for the majority of the half and Creighton cut the deficit to 14 with just over 5 minutes left in the game Villanova went ice cold for a spurt, going over 4 minutes without a field goal down the stretch. However, good defense, pause, confidence and foul shots kept the Wildcats up by a sizeable margin. The Wildcats maintained their poise and defeated the Bluejays by fourteen points.
Creighton had three players in double figures Marcus Foster and Cole Huff had 13 points apiece and Justin Patton chipped in 10 points. Foster’s 13 points extended him 17 consecutive games in double figures.
Josh Hart’s 29 points tied for the most points by a Villanova athlete in a Big East Tournament. He joins Kerry Kittles in 1995, and Scottie Reynolds in 2007. Hart is also the third athlete in conference history to be named a two-timed Tournament MVP. Hart joins Peyton Siva (Louisville, 2012, 2013) and Patrick Ewing (Georgetown, 1984, 1985).
Villanova is just the fifth school in conference history to appear in three consecutive tournament finals. The Wildcats are hoping to collect more hardware in a month or so. Stay Tuned!
The 2017 Big East All-Tournament Team
Kris Jenkins, Villanova Jalen Brunson, Villanova Marcus Foster, Creighton Angel Delgado, Seton Hall Trevon Bluiett, Xavier