No. 5 Providence def. No. 1 Xavier, 75-72
Providence upset top-seeded Xavier with a stunning comeback in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. Providence was down by as many as 17 points in the game but used a 46-29 advantage in the second half and overtime to upend the Musketeers.
Alpha Diallo and Rodney Bullock finished with 17 points for Providence. Kyron Cartwright added 15 points and six assists and Nate Watson had 14 points.
Xavier got off to an 18-10 start in the first eight minutes of the game. They pushed the tempo early and forced a couple of turnovers for breakaway dunks. Their lead extended to 13 after Tyrique Jones converted an and-one on a dime from JP Macura the 8:54 mark in the first half. At this point, Providence was only shooting 33 percent.
Paul Scruggs gave Xavier big minutes in the first half with 10 points in his first even minutes.
Providence cut Xavier’s lead to single digits towards the end of the first half but went the last three minutes without a field goal. Xavier pushed their lead to 14 with a 43-29 halftime lead. Paul Scruggs (13 points) and Kerem Kanter (10 points) paced Xavier in the first half.
The Friars had their first sign of life with an 8-0 run midway through the second half. They cut Xavier’s lead down to nine with that run as the Musketeers experienced a brief scoring drought. Providence chopped their deficit down to four with eight minutes left with a 26-16 initial advantage in the second half.
The Friars tied the game up at 64-64 after making six straight field goals during a late stretch in the game. Nate Watson, Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright became mighty and timely forces in the game during that stretch.
Trevon Bluiett knocked down a pair of free throws to give Xavier a 66-64 lead with under two minutes left. Bluiett struggled in the game, finishing with 13 points on 2-of-14 shooting from the field and 1-of-7 from three.
Rodney Bullock responded with a pair of free throws for Providence to tie up the game at 66-66.
Sean O’Mara made a turnaround basket inside with 35.4 seconds left to give the Musketeers a 68-66 lead. After a stop and a rebound by Xavier, they had Trevon Bluiett ahead of the pack for a layup. They got the ball to Bluiett, but the layup was off the mark. Kyron Cartwright came back and drew a foul, knocking down two free throws to tie up the game. JP Macura’s inside shot attempt was blocked by Rodney Bullock, sending the game into overtime.
Alpha Diallo’s basket inside gave the Friars a 71-70 lead with 2:22 left. Kyron Cartwright followed up with a midrange jumper off the dribble to give Providence a 73-70 lead with 49.4 seconds left.
Trevon Bluiett was fouled off the ball on the next possession. Bluiett drained both free throws with 40.8 seconds left, putting Xavier down by one. Xavier came up with a stop on the next possession, and with no timeouts left, JP Macura drove the length of the floor to the basket, but Kyron Cartwright drew an offensive foul.
Providence held a 73-72 lead with 7.7 seconds left. Alpha Diallo was fouled on the inbound and made both free throws to give the Friars their deciding three-point lead. Xavier came down and didn’t even get a shot off in time before the buzzer.
No. 2 Villanova def. No. 5 Butler, 87-68
Villanova dominated Butler in the semifinal round to reach their second straight Big East championship game. Mikal Bridges led the Wildcats with 18 points. Villanova shot 48 percent from the field and 41 percent (14-of-34) from three.
The Wildcats got off to a resounding 16-0 start in the first five minutes of the game hitting six of their first seven shots and limiting Butler to one-shot-and-done possessions. Their lead mounted to 19-0 before Butler scored their first field goal at the 14:30 mark of the first half.
Villanova’s lead was 28-8 midway through the first half. They held a 44-25 lead at halftime. The Wildcats pushed their lead to 27 midway through the second half of the game would never be in reach for Butler. Matching Villanova 43-43 in the second half had no impact given their deficit.
This will be the second straight Big East championship appearance for Villanova with the chance to repeat as conference champions.