The Villanova Wildcats ended a 20-year drought on Saturday night, winning their first Big East Tournament title in 20 years. They defeated the Xavier Musketeers 69-52 Saturday night in Madison Square Garden to bring the trophy back to the Main Line for the first time since 1995.
Dylan Ennis paced all scorers with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, but it was sophomore Josh Hart who turned in his third straight super performance in New York City with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Hart was rightfully honored postgame with the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player award.
The first half started as a see-saw battle with both teams struggling to create offense. It might have been tired legs, but it appeared as if both teams ratcheted up the defense and forced the other into turnovers or bad shots. Hart led a balanced attack in the first half with 9 points and 4 rebounds, while Darrun Hilliard and Ennis chipped in 8 and 7 points, respectively. Remy Abell was the lone bright spot in the first half for Xavier, leading with 7 points as Matt Stainbrook and Jalen Reynolds struggled to take make use of their size advantage.
Late in the first half, the shots started falling for the Wildcats and they entered the locker room with a 34-21 lead.
The second half started well, with the 'Cats extending their double-digit halftime lead courtesy of an 8-0 run out of the gates that put the game out of reach for the Muskies.. Hart and Ennis continued to fuel the run with their offense while 'Nova took it to another level defensively and didn't allow the Musketeers any breathing room.
Dee Davis and Reynolds put in valiant efforts for Chris Mack's squad, especially in the second half with X hanging on. Davis finished 13 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds while Reynolds posted 13 points and 4 rebounds. The Musketeers definitely punched their dance card with their run in Manhattan. X looks like a threat for the second weekend as the Big East attempts to further cement itself as one of the best leagues in the country.
For the Wildcats, they'll enter the NCAA Tournament on a 15-game winning streak and full of confidence having exorcised their Big East Tournament demons. With a #1 seed all but locked up and first weekend games likely in Pittsburgh, expectations will be even higher than last season to make it to the second weekend and beyond.