Villanova and Creighton will meet for the Big East title after both teams pulled out wins in the final 10 seconds of their respective semifinal games on Friday night.
Villanova fell behind by double-digits against Seton Hall and didn’t take it’s first lead until there was 9:18 left. Still trailing 53-52 in the final seconds, Josh Hart put back a Kris Jenkins miss and was fouled to put the Wildcats ahead. “I think he was surprised he was so open,” Hart said. “And I just saw him shoot it. Right when I saw him shoot it I knew when he shot he put a little too much mustard on it, and I was, like, you know what, just go get it.”
When Angel Delgado missed at the other end, Villanova had survived. The Wildcats were coming off a 41-point win against St. John’s and had blown out Seton Hall twice this season. But memories of Pirate upsets of Villanova in the 2014 and 2016 tournaments and some regular season battles were not forgotten. “It’s going into the game I know, I just know what a Seton Hall-Villanova game is going to be like. Sometimes we have gotten them big scores and they’re more anomalies. We’ve got a lot of games like this. Not just in the Big East Tournament, at their place. So I really expect this coming into the game. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe that’s why it happens so much.”
After scoring 108 points on Thursday, Villanova was held to 20 points in the first half. Scoring 55 for the game, only Hart (19) and Jalen Brunson (13) were in double figures. For Seton Hall, Desi Rodriguez led the way with 14 points, while Khadeem Carrington and Myles Powell added 11 apiece. Angel Delgado was held to eight points, eight rebounds and two assists a day after nearly recording a triple-double against Marquette.
It seemed like Creighton and Xavier would have trouble matching the excitement of the first game but they came pretty close. With Creighton leading 72-69, Trevor Bluiett tied the game with a three-pointer with 15.6 seconds left. Then Marcus Foster answered back with a three of his own. There were still six seconds left for Xavier and J.P. Macura, who hit six threes already, had a good look to tie the game but was off the mark.
“That was quite a game. A terrific win for us,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said. “We’ve been in this league for four years. This will be the second trip to the championship game which is a credit to the people in the locker room, staff and players.”
It was a team effort as Justin Patton and Marcus Foster both scored 21 points, Cole Huff had 11 points and Khyri Thomas had 10 points with eight assists.
On Saturday, a Madison Square Garden crowd will see what Villanova and Creighton can do for an encore.