The 2018 Big East Tournament came to an end in exciting fashion, as the Villanova Wildcats defeated the Providence Friars 76-66 in overtime, in front of a raucous 19,000+ fans at The World’s Most Famous Arena.
Villanova got off to a quick start for their second-straight game, using a 7-0 run to give them a 9-2 lead at the 15:54 mark in the first half.
However, the Friars would successfully shake off the rust as they would have a 9-0 run to tie the game up at 11 with 11:57 left in the first half. Alpha Diallo added six points in under two minutes of play to help ignite the scoring run.
Two threes from Jalen Brunson and Bridges, as well as a Mikal Bridges layup on the next possession, sparked a quick 10-0 run for the Wildcats immediately after the under-12 timeout.
A timely Rodney Bullock three-pointer with 7:27 on the clock, ended Villanova’s scoring run, narrowing the deficit to just seven at 21-14.
Three straight Providence field-goals narrowed Villanova’s lead to one point at 21-20 with 5:16 left to play. Alpha Diallo converted on a traditional three-point play to tie the game at 23 with the 4:22 on the clock.
Villanova would answer with two consecutive baskets, including a wide-open three by Jalen Brunson to regain the lead and push it to 28-23 with 2:07 left in the first.
Villanova led 31-27 heading into the break. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges combined for 25 of Villanova’s 31 points in the first half.
Alpha Diallo had a fantastic first half for the Friars, leading the team with 14 points and 6 rebounds.
Villanova would put the first points on the board in the second half after Jalen Brunson made a wild, heavily-contested layup while getting hit by Kyron Cartwright in the process. Brunson would complete the three-point play to give Villanova a 34-27 lead at the 19:04 mark.
Brunson would later extend his team’s lead to 12 points at 39-27.
In the middle of the half, Providence surged back. Kyron Cartwright would take matters into his own hands, scoring nine straight points in 90 seconds, to bring the Friars to within 2 points, at 51-49 with 9:04 left to play.
The Friars tied the game up at 51 with 7:49 left to play after Drew Edwards was able to grab an offensive board and make the putback as he got hit from behind. His sole free-throw gave Providence’s first lead of the game at 52-51.
Villanova went back ahead and was nursing a 58-54 lead at the under-4 media timeout. Alpha Diallo was sent to the line after almost converting on a floater as Donte DiVincenzo got in his path. After making both shots from the charity stripe, Providence cut Villanova’s lead to just two points at the 3:01 mark.
Kryon Cartwright tied the game at 58 apiece with a tough fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expired with 1:38 left to play in regulation.
With less than 40 seconds left, Providence would take a 60-58 lead after Cartwright dished a bounce pass to Alpha Diallo in the paint for an easy left-handed lay-up.
Jalen Brunson would make his way to the free throw line for Villanova in the next possession. His free throws were smooth as silk, confidently falling in the hoop, tying the game at 60, with 30 seconds left to play.
Cartwright had a chance to win it for Providence as the time expired, but his fadeaway jumper from the left wing missed wide left, sending the championship game to overtime.
This would mark Providence’s third-straight overtime game in just three days.
Mikal Bridges opened the scoring in overtime with a clutch three from the top of the key, giving Villanova a 63-60 lead with 3:37 left in the overtime period.
Jalen Lindsey made two free throws for the Friars after drawing a loose ball foul on a missed jumper. His free throws brought the Friars to within one at 63-62 with 3:18 on the clock.
Omari Spellman answered with a floater in the paint on the next possession, bring Villanova’s lead back to three at 65-62 with 3:02 left to play.
After two free throws from Kyron Cartwright, Mikal Bridges would convert on another three-pointer from the top of the key, this time, extending the lead to 68-64 with 2:08 left to play.
Alpha Diallo and Jalen Brunson would trade baskets inside the 2:00 mark. With 1:50 left to play, Alpha Diallo missed a crucial layup with his team down four points at 70-66. Jalen Lindsey had a great look for three on the next possession but his shot missed wide left.
The Friars struggled to make an impact in the overtime session, missing their last six shots of the game.
The Wildcats would end the game on an 8-0 run, including two slam dunks from Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, catapulted the Wildcats to a wild 76-66 Big East Tournament Championship win.
Despite his team’s tough loss, Ed Cooley couldn’t have been any prouder of his team’s performance throughout this tournament. “I feel for our young men,” he said. “I thought we played great. I thought we played tough. I thought we played together.”
He continued, “if you would have told me back in September that we’d be playing in this game with the ball to win a postseason championship, I would have signed up for it. We got the shot we wanted in regulation.”
Villanova head coach Jay Wright summed tonight’s game the best, “what an incredible college basketball game! The atmosphere at the Garden, we just feel so lucky to be a part of it.”
“Congratulations to Providence on an incredible season,” Wright continued. “Providence defensively was unbelievable. Just a really gutty performance…. Either team could have won that overtime game.”
Jalen Brunson finished with 31 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Mikal Bridges was named the Big East Tournament’s Most Valuable Player, after finishing with 25 points, shooting 9-14 from the field, including his two pivotal three-pointers in the overtime session.
For the Friars, Alpha Diallo and Kyron Cartwright combined for 41 points. Diallo finished with a double-double, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Both teams will wait to hear their names called on tomorrow’s March Madness Selection Show.
With Villanova’s win, they automatically clinch a spot in the tournament and will most likely land one of the coveted #1 seeds in the bracket.
The BIG EAST Tournament Championship Game Saturday night at Madison Square Garden between Providence and Villanova is a sellout. With capacity crowds in three of the five tournament sessions, the BIG EAST enjoyed its highest Tournament attendance figures in its five years of the current 10-team alignment.
Providence became the first team in Big East Tournament history to play in overtime in three straight days.
Coming into tonight’s matchup, Villanova advanced to its ninth overall and fourth consecutive BIG EAST Tournament final. The Wildcats are 3-5 overall in the finals. Two of their three title wins have come within the last three years, in the new, 10-team conference format.
The Friars became the first No. 5 seed to advance to the finals since Syracuse in 2013. Providence also became the second team in BIG EAST Tournament history to win back-to-back overtime games. The first was Syracuse, which also won Quarterfinal and Semifinal contests in overtime, back in 2009.