Cats Survive Thriller Against Seton Hall, 55-53

NEW YORK (CBS) — There was no doubt a feeling of déjà vu for Villanova.

After losing a tight contest to Seton Hall in last year’s Big East Final, the Pirates had the Wildcats on the ropes again in Friday’s semifinal clash.  However, Villanova rallied from a poor first half and slipped by Seton Hall, 55-53. The Wildcats move on to Saturday’s Big East Final against Creighton. Despite shooting 7-for-26 in the first half and finishing with only five three-pointers, Jay Wright’s squad found a way to win for the 30th time this season.

“I think we got outplayed tonight,” said Wright. “We just found ways at the end. Great players make great plays.”

One of those great players who made plays was Josh Hart. The senior put home a missed shot by Kris Jenkins with 9.6 seconds remaining a drew a foul for a three-point play. The field goal and free throw gave Villanova a two-point lead and Angel Delgado’s shot in the final seconds rolled off the rim.

“It bounced into the perfect spot,” said Hart. “I was able to just get it and go up with it, and then on the last play, Eric Paschall played Delgado as best as anyone could.  We were fortunate enough to come out with a win.”

Hart was the driving force behind Villanova’s victory. The senior scored a game-high 19 points, with 14 coming in the second half. Hart and his teammates were trailing, 27-20, at halftime and knew they needed a better performance in the second half to keep their Big East title hopes alive.

“We know we didn’t play Villanova Basketball for the first 20 minutes,” said Hart. “In the beginning, we had some shots that we forced, especially myself. We didn’t get in the lane and get the other guys shots. We challenged ourselves. Coach challenged us to play Villanova Basketball for 20 minutes.”

“We know we didn’t play Villanova Basketball for the first 20 minutes,” said Hart. “In the beginning, we had some shots that we forced, especially myself. We didn’t get in the lane and get the other guys shots. We challenged ourselves. Coach challenged us to play Villanova Basketball for 20 minutes.”

Villanova took its first lead on a steal and basket by Hart with 9:18 remaining. The lead went back and forth until Hart’s heroics at the end.  After blowing out Seton Hall twice this season, Wright wasn’t surprised to see the series revert back to form at Madison Square Garden.

“They’ve played us so well so many times,” Wright said. “It’s not just last year’s game. Going into the game, I just know what a Seton Hall-Villanova game is going to be like. Sometimes, we have gotten them with big scores. They’re more anomalies.”

Villanova in the Big East title game is far from an anomaly. The Wildcats will play for the championship for the third straight season and Hart and his teammates are hoping for a different ending than the one written by Seton Hall a year ago.

“It’s amazing,” said Hart. “You grow up watching the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. There’s so much history in this league and this tournament. To be in three straight is amazing.”

More from Ed Benkin
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