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No. 1 Villanova (55) vs. No. 5 Seton Hall (53) – Before a sellout crowd of 19,812 at Madison Square Garden, the Villanova Wildcats hardly resembled the team that set a Big East Tournament record with 108 points and team record field goal percentage at 63.2% in the quarterfinals against St. John’s on Thursday in the first half shooting a woeful 26 percent while tallying only 20 points.

However, Big East Player of the Year Josh Hart displayed versatility and poise the second half scoring 14 of his game high 19 points including the go-ahead play with 9.6 seconds left soaring high into the air for a put back shot off the glass while getting fouled in the process giving Villanova a 55-53 advantage. With one last opportunity to tie the game up, Seton Hall Angel Delgado’s jump shot from close range bounced off the rim as the Wildcats escaped with the victory. Desi Rodriguez led Seton Hall in scoring with 14 points.  While Khadeem Carrington and Myles Powell each added 11 points apiece.

“A lot of credit goes to Seton Hall, we got outplayed tonight and we just found ways at the end,” Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said. “Great players make great plays, Jalen (Brunson) and Josh individually made incredible plays. A great Big East game, defense and physicality. Defensively we had great stops and Eric Paschall did a great job defending Delgado on the last play.”

“We were poor in the first half, offensively we were terrible and just not playing the way we wanted to. We got talented players, they have goals and no fear of fear and failure and we saw it at the end.”

Josh Hart on the game-winning play, “I saw Josh when he shot it and he put too much mustard on it and just said let’s go get it and luckily in the right spot and got it and went up with it. Paschall played Delgado as anyone could and fortunate to come out with the win.”

In the first half, Seton Hall jumped out to a 13-5 lead. Villanova struggled from the perimeter not scoring their first bucket until the 16:26 mark. A 9-1 run by the Wildcats that was capped off by a monstrous baseline dunk by Mikal Bridges tied the contest up at 14-14 with 8:17 remaining. The Pirates stormed back with an 11-0 spurt making it 25-14 with 4:33 left. Despite going the last 3:40 without a point, Seton Hall held a 27-20 lead at halftime.

No. 6 Creighton (75) vs. No. 7 Xavier (72) – Creighton’s Marcus Foster said in the postgame conference he always wanted to play at Madison Garden and have this moment is amazing. After Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett drained a trifecta tying the game up at 72-72 with 15.2 seconds remaining in the second half, the Blue Jays did not call a timeout instead running a play where Foster stepped up and sank his fourth triple of the game with 6.6 seconds left. Attempting to tie the game up, Musketeers J.P. Macura’s jumper from beyond the arc clanged off the front of the rim.

“Xavier jumped on us earlier and spent a good amount of time digging out of a hole,” Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott said. “Defensively we were not great in the second half but our fight on the backboards was better. A terrific win for us and been in this league four years and second trip to the championship game which is a credit to the staff and players in the locker room. We have been though a lot in the last five or six weeks and for us to be sitting on that stage tomorrow night is a credit to the character of the people in the locker room. Marcus made a big time play at the end of the game and not only scoring but making plays for others.”

Justin Patton dominated the paint in the second half for Creighton scoring 16 of his 21 points. The Blue Jays were sizzling from the perimeter shooting 72% while hitting 7 of 9 three-pointers. Kyhri Thomas nailed a trifecta giving the Blue Jays their first lead since the 17:37 mark of the first half.

Creighton widened the margin to 53-48 only to see Macura light it up from long distance swooshing a trey putting Xavier back up 65-64 with 4:16 left. Tied at 67-67 with 2:14 to go, Foster put the Blue Jays back on top with a triple

Macura led Xavier with a game high 22 points while Bluiett delivered 18 points.

The Musketeers jumped to an early 18-9 advantage and extended the margin to double digits at 31-20 with less than 5 minutes remaining. Creighton started to catch fire from beyond the arc cutting the game to four with at the 3:21 mark on a trey from Cole Huff(11 points). Both teams’ combined knocked down 11 of 22 three-pointers in the first half.

This will mark the 3rd consecutive trip to the Big East Tournament Final for Villanova. Last year the Wildcats lost to Seton Hall 69-67. In 2015 Villanova defeated Xavier 69-52. Creighton lost to Providence in the 2014 final 65-58.

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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