Villanova has had their fair share of trouble with Seton Hall the past few years, and it was another dogfight at The Rock on Wednesday night. Ultimately, Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono carried the team to a 72-71 victory to keep the Wildcats' perfect Big East record intact.
The game started off rather cagey with both defenses trying to dictate the shot selection for each team by packing the lanes and over-helping on penetration. This resulted in plenty of open looks, and both the Wildcats and Pirates were happy to oblige.
Villanova shot 8-14 (57%) from downtown and the Pirates weren't far off at 5-12 (47%). Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins all hit multiple 3s in the opening 20 minutes, as did Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington.
While the Wildcats were able to stretch their lead to as many as 10 points, the Pirates wouldn't go away and used a late-half run to close the gap. Daniel Ochefu's first half foul trouble was a factor for the Wildcats, who went in to the half leading 35-33. It should be noted that Darryl Reynolds once again stepped up and gave a solid effort with 3 points and 8 rebounds.
Villanova came out of the gates firing again, with Jalen Brunson canning a couple of early longballs and Daniel Ochefu getting more assertive on the low block to stretch the lead back out to arm's length. But with Ochefu picking up his 3rd and 4th fouls in quick succession, the Pirates were able to climb back in the game.
While Isaiah Whitehead struggled, Carrington was able to feast with penetration on a Wildcats' defense that was lacking its last line of defense. Both he and Josh Hart used some quick whistles from the referees to attack the glass relentlessly and convert on the drive and at the foul line.
The pace ended up slowing to a crawl as the referrees started calling loads of fouls, with both teams entering the double-bonus with 8 minutes remaining in the game. Villanova kept a two-possession lead over Seton Hall as the game entered its final stretch, even without hitting a field goal for over 6 minutes.
Isaiah Whitehead took over for the Pirates down the stretch, making a huge three-pointer to give Seton Hall their first lead since the beginning of the game with just 2 minutes left. Daniel Ochefu finally re-entered the game, and responded immediately with a finish to tie it up again.
After trading misses, Villanova ran the same play that beat Creighton last year, faking a handoff with Arcidiacono driving for a wide open layup to give the 'Cats the lead. Then insanity ensued.
Daniel Ochefu had a chance to ice the game, but missed both free throws after referees had to stop the action briefly due to Seton Hall fans throwing coins on to the court.. Seton Hall couldn't capitalize, but gave the Pirates life when Jalen Brunson threw the ensuing inbounds pass away. Not happy with their free chance, Whitehead dropped the next inbounds pass out of bounds to gift the ball back to Villanova
After Josh Hart made 1 of 2 free throws to extend the lead to 3 points with 5.6 seconds left, Mikal Bridges appeared to cleanly strip Isaiah Whitehead as he dribbled up the court. But the closest ref, assuming Villanova was employing the intentional 'foul up 3' strategy, whistled Bridges for a foul.
With just a couple ticks left on the clock, Whitehead made both free throws - to be fair he was likely trying to miss the second. Josh Hart tried to go long to Bridges on the inbound, but it was stolen by Angel Delgado. Thankfully for Villanova, his 70-footer could only find the backboard.
Villanova has now won 22 straight games in the Big East. That continues to be incredible.