Wild­cats are look­ing like cham­pi­ons once again

The Washington Post Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - BY JIM O’CON­NELL

new york — This time, Vil­lanova is go­ing into the NCAAs with a con­fer­ence tour­na­ment ti­tle and prob­a­bly the No. 1 over­all seed.

The sec­ond-ranked Wild­cats will find out Sun­day when and where their na­tional cham­pi­onship de­fense will be­gin. On Satur­day, they showed that when they play their pre­ferred style they are very tough to beat.

Josh Hart (Sid­well Friends) scored 29 points to lead Vil­lanova to a 74-60 vic­tory over Creighton in the Big East cham­pi­onship game at Madi­son Square Gar­den.

“We wanted to set the tone,” said Hart, a se­nior guard. “We wanted to play 40 min­utes of Vil­lanova bas­ket­ball.”

Good de­fense, shar­ing the ball and mak­ing three-point­ers is the for­mula that has led top-seeded Vil­lanova (31-3) to four con­sec­u­tive Big East reg­u­lar sea­son ti­tles.

“We might have played our best de­fen­sive game of the year,” Coach Jay Wright said.

Hart, the con­fer­ence player of the year, be­came just the third player to win the tour­na­ment MVP award twice, join­ing Pa­trick Ewing of Ge­orge­town and Pey­ton Siva of Louisville.

Hart and fel­low se­niors Kris Jenk­ins (Gon­zaga) and Dar­ryl Reynolds have posted a record of 128-16 in their four sea­sons.

“I’d be re­miss if I didn’t men­tion how well that Kris and Josh and Dar­ryl, what great am­bas­sadors they’ve been for the Big East Con­fer­ence,” Creighton Coach Greg McDer­mott said.

“The Vil­lanova pro­gram in gen­eral, for a bas­ket­ball purist like my­self, the way they won it last year, team bas­ket­ball, and just the way they carry them­selves.”

This was Vil­lanova’s third Big East tour­na­ment crown, the oth­ers com­ing in 1995 and 2015.

When asked if Vil­lanova would get the No. 1 over­all seed in the NCAA tour­na­ment, Wright re­sponded: “Prob­a­bly. But we don’t re­ally care . . . . We’re go­ing to be fine. We’re go­ing to be fine. Wher­ever they put us, what­ever our seed is.”

The Wild­cats had their hands on so many Creighton passes, they forced a sea­son-high 17 turnovers that led to 21 points. And with Hart lead­ing the way, they made ev­ery big shot they needed.

Jalen Brun­son added 17 points for Vil­lanova. Jenk­ins, whose three-pointer won the na­tional cham­pi­onship game against North Carolina last year, had 14.

Cole Huff and Mar­cus Fos­ter each scored 13 points to lead the sixth-seeded Blue­jays (25-9).

Vil­lanova, which lost last sea­son’s Big East cham­pi­onship game to Se­ton Hall, closed the first half on a 25-11 run to go up 36-22. Hart had 12 points in the spurt and Brun­son added eight. The two com­bined to score the Wild­cats’ fi­nal 20 points in the semi­fi­nals.

The lead reached 46-26, and the clos­est the Blue­jays got the rest of the way was 12 points.

Hart, who along with Brun­son de­fended Fos­ter, scored ev­ery way imag­in­able, from three­p­oint­ers to ac­ro­batic drives.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.