Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said Josh Hart put the team on his back in Friday night’s semifinal against Seton Hall. Hart did not disappoint in Saturday’s championship game against Creighton (25-9), scoring 15 of his game high 29 points in the first half leading the Wildcats (31-3) to a 74-60 victory and second Big East Tournament Championship in the last three years. Hart nabbed his second tournament Most Valuable Player award.
“We may have played our best defensive game of the year,” said Jay Wright. “Great leadership from our seniors and these two guys (Jalen Brunson) and (Josh Hart) are really special. He (Josh Hart) was tournament MVP as a sophomore and is better in every aspect of the game and such a good player. In this tournament he put all together with leadership, decision-making, defense and rebounding.”
“We just played as hard as we could for 40 minutes and we definitely know we have to get a lot better,” Hart said. “We got to keep being coachable and we’re very humbled and honored to have won this.”
Unlike Friday night’s game versus Seton Hall where Villanova struggled to score in the first half, the Wildcats offense was markedly better, shooting 46 percent from the field while draining 7 of 16 from beyond the arc. Brunson tallied 11 of his 17 points as him and Hart accounted for 26 of Villanova’s 36 points. Up 22-20 with 5:14 remaining, the Wildcats would go on a decisive 14-2 run taking a 36-20 advantage into the locker room.
On the other hand, Creighton had been lethal from three-point range against Xavier struggled only hitting 2 of 12 triples in the first half. Marcus Foster and Justin Pattton each scored 21 points apiece in the semifinal win over the Musketeers but Villanova’s tenacious defense Foster to 13 points and Patton to 10. The Blue Jays just made 6 of 24 three-pointers for the entire game.
In the second half, the Wildcats pushed the margin up to 20 points at 46-26 with 15 minutes remaining. Creighton did make a brief 9-2 run trimming the deficit to 52-42 with 8:18 left. However, Villanova knocked down their free throws burying 14 of 18 from the charity stripe to close out the game. The Wildcats forced Creighton into 17 turnovers that led to 21 points.