Jalen Brunson’s first sign of emotion in this Big East tournament came, finally, in the closing minutes of its final game.
Villanova’s 6-foot-3 point guard found himself surrounded at the free throw line by Providence’s 6-7 Jalen Lindsey and 6-8 Rodney Bullock, fighting to hold on to possession with the Wildcats nursing a two-point lead and little more than two minutes left in regulation of the championship game Saturday night. He wrapped both arms around the ball in a vice grip and thrashed from left to right, trying to shake his defenders. In the process, his eyes tightened. A corner of his mouth lifted. There might have been a snarl.
It was just a flash. Brunson was back to himself — dead-eyed, expressionless — in the next instant. He remained that way as he hit two free throws with 30 seconds left to send the game to overtime, even as one corner of the packed crowd at Madison Square Garden showered him with boos and one spectator shouted: “Not today, Brunson! Not today!” Only when he charged down the court with 20 seconds left in overtime and slammed a one-handed dunk that put Villanova up by eight did he finally unleash a roar.
A smile followed moments later, when Donte DiVincenzo’s layup iced Villanova’s 76-66 overtime win over Providence to secure the Wildcats’ third Big East tournament championship in four years. — Ava Wallace (Read more)
Skinny: Alpha Diallo hit a go-ahead jumper with 2:22 left in overtime and fifth-seeded Providence rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit and stunned top-seeded and No. 3 Xavier 75-72 in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament on Friday night. Kyron Cartwright hit a clutch jumper with 55 seconds to go and took an offensive foul on a layup attempt by J.P. Macura with eight seconds to play as the Friars (21-12) beat the Musketeers (28-5) for the second time in three games this season. This one was totally unexpected after the opening 25 minutes at Madison Square Garden. The win sent Providence in the title game against the winner of the second semifinal between second-seeded and No. 2 Villanova and sixth-seeded Butler. — Associated Press
Skinny: Mikal Bridges had 18 points and second-ranked Villanova scored the first 19 points and cruised toward its fourth straight trip in the Big East Tournament championship game in an 87-68 win over Butler on Friday night. About 30 minutes after top-seeded Xavier was upset by Providence in overtime, the Wildcats (29-4) hit the court and showed how a favorite should play in a tournament semifinal. The Wildcats scored five seconds into the game and used near-perfect execution on a 16-0 run before Butler coach LaVall Jordan finally called a timeout at the 15:37 mark. He could have waved a white flag to signal for the TO. Omari Spellman buried a 3 to make it 19-0 and the Wildcats proved why the Big East tournament title always goes through the Main Line and straight to MSG. Butler finally scored and heard some mock cheers for the jumper. — Associated Press
Skinny: Trevon Bluiett scored 27 points, Kaiser Gates had 16 and Xavier looked every bit the top seed in an 88-60 win over St. John’s. The teams scuffled on the postgame handshake line and had to be separated as the crowd stood for the unexpected fracas. The Musketeers (28-4) dominated in the second half on the Red Storm’s home court, snapping out of a sluggish first half to win for 13th time in their last 14 games. Xavier, ranked No. 3 in the country, plays the winner of the Providence-Creighton game in a Friday semifinal. Providence beat Xavier 81-72 on Jan. 6. Xavier lost only three times during conference play to take its first Big East title and the top seed into MSG. — Associated Press
Skinny: Kyron Cartwright hit two go-ahead free throws with 1:32 left in overtime and added a crucial basket with 16 seconds to go and fifth-seeded Providence took a big step toward a fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth with a 72-68 win over fourth-seeded Creighton in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament on Thursday. Cartwright had five of his 13 points in the extra five minutes in helping the Friars advance to a semifinal matchup with top-seeded Xavier. The Musketeers beat St. John’s 88-60 in the first quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden. The teams split two regular season games. Alpha Diallo, whose putback layup with 12 seconds left in regulation forced the overtime, had 15 of his 19 points in the second half. Rodney Bullock also had 13. Jalen Lindsey added 11 points and 10 rebounds. — Associated Press
Skinny: Jay Wright became the winningest coach in Villanova history, and the No. 2 Wildcats opened defense of their Big East Tournament championship in a 94-70 win over Marquette on Thursday night. Wright improved to 414-165 since he took the job in 2001 and has led the Wildcats to the 2009 Final Four and 2016 national championship. He was tied with Al Severance, who went 413-201 from 1936-1961. He’s alone atop the record book — and should eventually put the total far out of reach. The Wildcats (28-4) took control in the second half and showed why their third tournament title in four years is within reach. Mikal Bridges hit four 3s and scored 25 points and Big East player of the year Jalen Brunson scored 21. The Wildcats made 15 of 29 3s — a stunning 11 of 17 in the second half. — Associated Press
Skinny: Tyler Wideman scored on a putback with :04 to play and sixth-seeded Butler stunned third-seeded Seton Hall. Kamar Baldwin scored a career-high 32 points to lead the Bulldogs (20-12) to their first victory over Seton Hall (21-11) in three games this season and into a semifinal game against second-seeded Villanova on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Baldwin, who was spectacular all night, drove the right side of the lane and seemingly had a layup. The ball rolled off the rim and Wideman, who battled second-half foul problems, put it back home. — Associated Press
FIRST ROUND (Wednesday, March 7)
Skinny: Shamorie Ponds returned from an abdominal strain and scored 26 points and the Red Storm took over in the second half to beat the Hoyas in the first round of the Big East tournament on Wednesday night. Marvin Clark II scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half andSt. John’s (16-16) beat Georgetown (15-15) in the first round for the second straight year. It also was St. John’s first win over Georgetown in three games this season and its sixth win in nine games overall. Jessie Govan had 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Hoyas, but only eight points came in the second half. Marcus Derrickson added 20 points for Georgetown, which has lost five in a row. — Associated Press
Skinny: Andrew Rowsey scored 25 points and seventh-seeded Marquette blew a 14-point lead and came back to outlast 10th-seeded DePaul in the opening round of the Big East tournament on Wednesday night. Sam Hauser added 16 points and hit two big free throws with 33 seconds to play as the Golden Eagles (19-12) handed the Blue Demons (11-20) their fourth-straight opening-round loss in the tournament. DePaul had a chance to win the game in the final seconds but Max Strus, who scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half, missed an open three-pointer with Marquette clinging to a 70-69 lead. Rowsey got the rebound and was fouled, making two free throws with less than a second to play. — Associated Press
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