The Big East Conference has been marked by the fact of how even these teams are, and that has made for some pretty compelling basketball.Entering Saturday's regular season finale, Villanova led the conference with a record of 13-4, followed by Marquette at 12-5, followed by a five-way tie for third place between St. John's, Seton Hall, Georgetown at 8-9. DePaul and Butler (7-10), and Providence (6-11) rounded out the conference.
The day began with Seton Hall knocking off Villanova at the Prudential Center, 79-75. Providence, led by 24 points from A.J. Reeves, beat Butler 83-70. Georgetown came from behind to stun Marquette on the road to win 86-84.
St. John's got run out by Xavier for the second time in ten days, as they fell, 81-68. Creighton beat DePaul to close the night, 91-78.
At the end of an action-packed day, Villanova finished in first with a record of 13-5, followed by Marquette at 12-6. Georgetown, Seton Hall, Creighton, and Xavier finished 9-9, followed by St. John's at 8-10. Providence, Butler, and DePaul finished with 7-11 records.
The Big East Tournament opens Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden with Providence taking on Butler at 7:00 pm, followed by St. John's and DePaul tipping off around 9:30.
SETON HALL 79, VILLANOVA 75:
Seton Hall raced out to a 24-15 lead in this one, and that ballooned to a 14-point edge, 39-25, on a Sandro Mamukelashvili three-pointer with 1:03 left.
Villanova's Eric Paschall hit a three to bring them back within 11, at 39-28, at halftime.
In the second half, Myles Cale drained a three to make it 44-28 at the 18:35 mark, and Villanova responded with a 13-0 run capped by a pair of Paschall free throws at 14:47. A couple minutes later, Jared Rhoden and Myles Powell drained back-to-back threes to make it 56-45 Seton Hall at 11:35.
Villanova pulled within two, 63-61, on a Conor Gillespie three-pointer at 6:39, and he drained a pair of free throws at 3:57 that made it a one-point game, 66-65.
Seton Hall then went on a game-defining 7-0 run, as Michael Nzei made a layup, Cale forced a turnover, Mamukelashvili dunked one, and Cale made a three to make it 73-65 with 1:27 left.
Phil Booth scored six straight (a three-pointer and three free throws) to pull the Wildcats back within three, 74-71, with 44 seconds on the clock. Powell went to the free throw line and made one of two free throws, followed by Nzei making a pair of FTs at 26 seconds to make it 77-71.
Saddiq Bey made a quick three with 16 seconds left that made it a three-point game, 77-74, followed by a Shavar Reynolds free throw. Mamukaleshvili fouled Paschall with three seconds left, and he made the first free throw, but missed the second one, and when Seton Hall corraled the rebound, the Pirates secured the win to give them a 9-9 conference record and an overall record of 19-12.
Seton Hall was led by Powell with 20 points (5-14 shooting, 4-10 three-pointers), 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Cale had 19 points (6-11 FG, 6-8 threes) with a rebound and an assist. Jared Rhoden had 15 points (4-7 FG, 3-4 threes), with 3 rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench.
Villanova was led by Conor Gillespie, who had 11 points on 8-12 from the field, including 4-5 on three-pointers, with a rebound and an assist. Paschall had 14 points (3-7 FG, 1-4 threes), 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Booth had 16 points (5-10 FG, 3-7 threes), 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. The Wildcats did not have one bench point.
XAVIER 81, St. JOHN'S 68:
Xavier got off to a hot start, with an 8-0 lead a few minutes in, and St. John's came back to tie it at 10 before Xavier went back up six, 25-19, on a Ryan Welage jumper at the 7:57 mark. The Musketeers went into the half up 38-33.
St. John's made inroads early in the second half, as they pulled within two, 45-43, on a Justin Simon layup at 15:03. but Xavier once again showed they were in command of this one as they responded with a 9-2 run capped by a Tyrique Jones three-point play at 12:17 that made it 54-45.
The Red Storm weren't done yet, as an LJ Figueroa three-pointer made it a two-point gamer, 59-57, with 6:15 remaining.
Xavier responded with a 15-4 run to seal the win, capped by a Zach Hankins dunk with 2:02 left that made it 74-61.
Xavier was led by Paul Scruggs, who had 22 points (7-18 shooting, 2-8 three-pointers), with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Ryan Welage had 19 points on 7-11 from the field, including a superb 5-8 on three-pointers, with 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Zach Hankins and Kyle Castlin each had 12 points.
St. John's was led by LJ Figueroa, who had 20 points on a superb 9-12 from the field, including 2-2 on threes, with 5 rebounds and an assist. Shamorie Ponds had 19 points (6-15 FG, 3-9 threes) with 10 assists for a double-double, along with 4 rebounds.
The Red Storm close the regular season on a three-game losing streak putting their NCAA Tournament bid in peril. They have 20 wins, which includes 12 non-conference wins, 9 of which were against non-remarkable teams, and an 8-10 record in conference play. Their biggest wins in Big East play came against Villanova, two wins against Marquette, and one against Seton Hall.