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Hart Leads Cats Past Pirates

Villanova defeated Seton Hall, 55-53, with some last minute heroics to advance to the Big East Tournament Championship game tomorrow night against Creighton (5:30 p.m.. TV: Fox)

The “movie” was playing out with an eerie similarly to two other Seton Hall upsets of Villanova over the last three Big East Tournaments.  First, Seton Hall dominated the first half … then the Cats charged back to take a brief lead only to have Seton Hall make a number of winning plays down the stretch to snatch back the victory.

This time, Seton Hall grabbed a 27-20 half-time lead behind an impressive defensive performance.  Villanova charged back to take a lead at 41-40 only to see the Pirates respond.  The game was nip-and-tuck in the closing minutes and Seton Hall held a 53-52 lead as the Cats crossed half-court with the ball and only 17.0 seconds remaining to “flip the script” … Josh Hart drew two defenders on the right wing and passed the ball to Kris Jenkins  - open on the opposite wing.  “Big Smoove” let loose a deep three-ball attempt with 12.1 seconds remaining and ‘Nova fans were thinking “Bang!” … perhaps Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriquez were thinking the shot would fall too as they seemed mesmerized watching the flight of the ball … but Hart sensed the shot was off the mark and went on the attack … he soared in to grab the rebound over Delgado and Rodriquez with 9.6 seconds left, lay it in and draw the foul.  His free-throw was pure and the Cats led 55-53 … but Seton Hall had one more possession to stamp the same ending on the film.

The Pirates ran a solid set and got Delgado the ball in the low post.  His short turn-around missed but there was still an opportunity for the best offensive rebounder in the country to get the put-back at the buzzer and send the game to OT.  Donte DiVincenzo elevated from behind Delgado and made the smartest of plays.  Instead of trying to come down with the ball and potentially getting called for the foul, he gave it a hard swat out of Delgado’s hands to prevent the rebound and preserve the 55-53 victory.

‘Nova Nation let out a big sigh of relief as Villanova clinched the win and a spot in the Big East Tournament Championship game (for the third year in a row) tomorrow night.  Villanova notched win #30 on the season - becoming the only team in the country to win 30+ games in each of the last three seasons.  The victory was also the 70th Big East win for the Villanova Class of 2017 - the first Big East class to ever reach that career win milestone.

The player of the game for Villanova was, without doubt, Josh Hart (19 Points and 10 Rebounds).  He willed the team to victory down the home stretch with key buckets and great defense.  He got timely support from Jalen Brunson in crunch time while Donte DiVincenzo earned marks for his first half scoring outburst that kept the Cats within striking distance.

Goods:

  • Grit and determination to battle through when shots weren’t falling
  • Defense: held SHU to 40.7% FG, limited Khadeen Carrington and Delgado’s touches
  • +6 scoring advantage at the free-throw line

Others:

  • Shooting: 41.7% FG, 26.3% 3PFG and 58.8% FT
  • Season low - 20 first-half points
  • Out-rebounded 38-31
  • Allowed a bundle of second-chance points

Players:

Josh Hart (34 Min, 19 Points, 6-13 FG, 2-5 3PFG, 5-7 FTs, 10 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 3 Turnovers, 2 Steals, 1 Block, 105 ORtg)  Hart was fabulous down the stretch with his rebounding, defense and timely scoring.  He scored the winning bucket and showed great sportsmanship by talking up an visibly upset Angel Delgado after Delgado just missed his chances to send the game to OT.  The Senior has perfected the art of grinding out games!

Kris Jenkins (34 Min, 4 Points, 1-8 FG, 0-5 3PFG, 2-4 FT, 5 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 2 Steals, 1 Turnover, 1 Block, 47 ORtg)  Jenkins struggled shooting the ball and never got consistently into the flow of the offense.  He did, however, contribute a solid defense effort and he chipped in on the glass.  Jenkins generally made good decisions with the ball.

Mikal Bridges (25 Min, 5 points, 2-4 FG, 1-2 3PFG, 1 Rebound, 1 Assist, 144 ORtg)  Stroked a wing three and made an impressive dunk when he finished a pass he received while darting down the baseline to the cup.  Played a pretty good game on the defensive end but overall he seemed a little bit off his normal game as he returned to action from a stomach virus.

Jalen Brunson (31 Min, 13 Points, 6-12 FGs, 0-2 3PFG, 1-2 FTs, 1 Rebound, 2 Assists, 3 Turnovers, 1 Steal, 88 ORtg)  After his amazing “no miss” shooting performance against the Hall in the last meeting, Brunson was his own tough act to follow.  The Pirates did a good job of pressuring the ball and cutting down the passing lanes - this forced Villanova into taking perhaps too many threes in the first half and in the second half perhaps relying a bit too much on one-on-one play-making.  Brunson made a great turn-around jumper on the baseline and two key pull-up jumpers as the Cats made their final surge.

Darryl Reynolds (26 Min, 0 Points, 0 Shots, 4 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Turnover, 0 Steals, 4 Blocks, 115 ORtg)  As a team, the Cats help Angel Delgado to 8 points and 8 rebounds - Reynolds played a part in that with his defense effort and work on the boards.  He did a nice job of defending the rim.  Interestingly, he has not taken any shots in either of the first two games of this BET.

Eric Paschall (21 Min, 5 Points, 2-6 FGs, 0-2 3PFG, 1-1 FT, 5 Rebounds, 0 Assists, 2 Turnovers, 1 Steal, 0 Block, 76 ORtg)  Canned a nice mid-range jumper and finished one basket strong at the rim.  Couldn’t get his treys to drop and was a little weak with the ball.  He added a physical presence in the paint defensively and on the boards that helped the Cats combat Seton Hall’s inside game.

Donte DiVincenzo (26 Min, 9 Points, 3-5 FG, 2-3 3PFG, 1-3 FT, 5 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 1 Turnover, 2 Steals, 0 Block, 119 ORtg)  DiVincenzo scored 7 of the first 14 Wildcat points - helping ‘Nova stay in reach of the Pirates at half-time despite the sluggish offense.  Grabbed a pair of key rebounds and made the key deflection in the clutch.  His development has been interesting to watch this season.

Dylan Painter (3 Min)  Painter gave the primary rotation guys a bit of a chance to get an extra first-half breather.

Villanova (#2 AP, 30-3 overall) will face the winner of the Creighton - Xavier Semifinal game at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Madison Square Garden (TV: Fox).

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