Villanova Fights Off Pirates, Claims Big East Title


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Villanova Fights Off Pirates, Claims Big East Title

Greg Welsh

Eric Paschall scored 17 points and Phil Booth and Saddiq Bey each added 16 as the Wildcats defeated Seton Hall, 74–72, in the Big East Tournament final. The win makes the ‘Cats the first team ever to win three consecutive Big East Tournament Championships. 

Phil Booth, who averaged 19 points over the weekend’s three games, was named the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player. 

In a game in which neither team ever had a double digit lead, the title was in the hands of Seton Hall’s star guard, Myles Powell, with just nine seconds to go. After Pirates head coach, Kevin Willard called a timeout, Powell, who scored a game high 25 points in the contest, went one-on-one with Villanova’s Phil Booth. With the clock running down, Powell launched a step-back three for the win, but the attempt caromed off the back rim, sealing the victory for the ‘Cats. 

“I thought it was going to drop, said Powell. “Shooters usually aim for the back of the rim and it just went off long.” 

The game began with Powell knocking down a contested three to open the scoring, but Villanova quickly vaulted in front with a terrific start of their own offensively. The Wildcats knocked down four of their first seven three point attempts and Eric Paschall scored 10 points within the game’s opening 10 minutes to give Villanova a 21-12 advantage with 9:33 remaining in the half. 

The ‘Cats hot shooting would not last however, as the team missed their last six three point attempts before halftime, allowing the Pirates to make a run. A Myles Cale three off an offensive rebound put Seton Hall back in front, 26-25, with 2:31 remaining in the half.

Both teams stumbled on offensive in the closing minutes before the intermission, but a tip-in by Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree at the buzzer off a missed layup by Paschall brought the ‘Cats into the locker room with a 28-26 advantage. 

Seton Hall started the second half with a 5-0 run to move in front before Booth knocked down a triple to knot the game at 31. After another Powell triple put the Pirates back in front, ‘Nova countered with a 10-0 run to take a seven-point lead with 16 minutes remaining. While it appeared as if the Wildcats may finally pull away, Seton Hall fought back, as the teams continued to trade blows. 

After a Jermaine Samuels three from the corner, Villanova again looked to be on the brink of victory, leading, 66-59, with 3:34 to go. However, it was Powell and freshman Anthony Nelson, who brought the Pirates back again, with the help of several Villanova turnovers. The Pirates fight came as no surprise to Wright. 

“If you look at their season, they have been down in a lot of games, Wright said. “They’ve been like that all year. They just never go away.” 

True to Wright’s praise, Seton Hall cut the Villanova lead to one with a layup by Powell with 15 seconds to go. After Powell’s missed three-point attempt, Booth secured the rebound but traveled with 0.4 seconds left, giving the Pirates one last shot. Looking for a tip-in at the rim, Seton Hall tossed the in-bounds pass towards the basket, but the ball bounced off the backboard and away from the hoop as the clock hit zero. 

“We tried to throw it up to Sandro [Mamukelashvili] to see if he could tie it but we just didn’t have enough time,” Powell said.

With the win, Villanova clinches an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The team awaits the announcement of their opponent tomorrow evening.