Rushed Reactions: Villanova 71, Xavier 67 [OT]

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 15th, 2019

RTC’s Justin Kundrat (@justinkundrat) is providing on-site coverage of the Big East Tournament all week long.

Villanova and Xavier Played a Classic Friday Night in MSG (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Villanova’s resiliency comes through once again. Xavier was dominating the game for the first 35 minutes and had a seven-point lead with under five minutes left, but the Musketeers somehow let a trip to the Big East championship game slip through their fingers. Credit goes where credit is due, though, and that means Villanova deserves full recognition for its performance in tying the game before sealing it in overtime. Villanova has seldom been successful in overcoming poor shooting nights this season and it felt like a 9-of-29 three-point shooting performance would fit this narrative until Phil Booth started aggressively attacking the basket. As he steadily collected points around the rim, the defense’s attention shifted towards stopping him, which opened up the previously suffocating perimeter defense. So it is fitting that the biggest shot of the game came on a pick-and-roll set where the defense left Jermaine Samuels open for three to stop Booth’s drive.
  2. Xavier is a perfect example of how fickle the Big East Tournament can be. The Musketeers entered today as winners of eight of their last nine games, trending in the direction of earning an NCAA Tournament bid after what had previously been a lost season. But without a strong record or computer metrics, tonight’s game was rendered must-win, and Xavier lost in excruciating fashion. It’s hard to believe Travis Steele‘s club isn’t one of the best 35 or 40 teams in the country, and truth be told, it would probably beat most bubble teams. But the bottom line is that Xavier brought too little, too late, this season — an 18-15 overall record just won’t suffice.
  3. Friday night Big East semifinals at the Garden continue to be a must-watch event. It seems like every year, people complain about the quarterfinals not providing close games and then these complaints are quickly washed out within the next 24 hours. No matter the teams, the players or the coaches, the Big East semifinals are a mainstay for fans and locals alike.

Star of the Game. Phil Booth carried Villanova to a victory down the stretch, collecting 28 points and five assists while serving as the Wildcats’ only source of offense for most of the second half. When things stagnated or the team’s shooting went cold, Booth turned his aggression up a notch. It’s no surprise then that the senior led all players with six fouls drawn.

Quotable.[

  • Jay Wright on the team’s inability to score against Xavier: “We couldn’t run any offense, they were switching everything. We didn’t have any offense left, so we put it in Phil'[Booth]s hands and told him to make decisions.”
  • Jay Wright on Jermaine Samuels’ critical three pointer in the closing minute: “Jermaine’s a good player, we don’t need to encourage him, but we just give him little tips. He was open and was driving the ball, we told him to just shoot it.”
  • Eric Paschall described his thought process on his tip to send the game to overtime: “I saw Booth drive and I was on the weak side. Booth’s shots usually fall to the weak side, so I jumped and was able to tip it in.”

Sights & Sounds. As always, Madison Square Garden was electric for the first game as fans from all four teams filled just about every seat in the 20,000 capacity arena. Villanova fans were quiet and kept in check for the vast majority of the contest, but the closing minutes were so loud that you couldn’t hear the person sitting next to you.

What’s Next? Villanova will once again advance to the Big East championship game, facing the winner of tonight’s Marquette/Seton Hall game. Xavier will board its plane back to Cincinnati and eagerly await Sunday, when it will learn its postseason fate.

Justin Kundrat (165 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com


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