Villanova beats Xavier to clinch Big East title

Wilson Sy, Staff Writer

With a total of 10 teams in the Big-East Conference, the Villanova Wildcats are 2015 Big-East basketball champions by dominating Xavier 69-52 on Saturday night (3.14) at Madison Square Garden. Head coach Jay Wright earned his first ever conference tournament championship while Villanova earned their second Big-East title in program history. The first one came 20 years ago in 1995.

The 32-2 Wildcats also clinched a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament announced on by CBS on Selection Sunday.

After the win, head coach Jay Wright spoke about the teams’ path to winning the Big-East tournament.

“When we played our last game against St. John’s at home (Mar.7), the ’95 team was there, and they came in the locker room,” noted Wright. “They’re a very revered group at Villanova, and we said that to our guys. We said, `It would be great if you guys come back as Big East Tournament champions.’ Already, we’re going to come back as regular season champions, but we said that would be great to do.

Sophomore guard Josh Hart scored 15 points in the championship game and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award. The 6’5 Hart averaged 17.6 points per game including shooting -21-of-29 from the floor including 9-of-14 from three point land.

After the game, Hart said, “I know I’m going to sound like a broken record the last couple of days, but I got to shout out to my teammates. The confidence they had in me. They kept on finding me when I was open. Then when you have the confidence of your teammates, you’re able to go out there, play and have fun. So that’s just what I did.”

Junior guard Dylan Ennis scored16 points along with six rebounds, while senior guard Darrun Hillard had 12 points.

For Xavier (21-13), senior forward Jalen Reynolds finished with 13 points and four boards and Dee Davis added 13 points. Senior center Matt Stainbrook was only held to four points.

After Saturday’s game, Xavier coach Chris Mack said Villanova was talented enough to win a national title. Wright was added about the respond.

“We could win it,” Wright said. “But we could get beat by anybody. It’s just the way basketball is. We’re not Kentucky in terms of depth and talent, but we could beat them. But we could lose to a 15 or 16 (seed), too, if we don’t play right.”

Villanova, which last played in a Big East final in 1997, enters the NCAAs with 15 consecutive victories and will place Lafayette in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Pittsburgh. Five other Big-East teams is also going dancing including St. John’s for the 1st time in four years.

The 9th seeded Johnnies will take on San Diego State at 9:40 pm Friday March 20th in Charlotte North Carolina. 6th seeded Providence will face the winner of Boise State/Dayton and 6th Butler will face Texas, while 4th seeded Georgetown will face Eastern Washington. Conference runner-up 6th Xavier will take on the winner between Brigham Young and Ole Miss.