PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Villanova turned its season finale into a championship bash.
The Wildcats pulled Big East title T-shirts over their jerseys, watched a season highlight video on the big screen, and then mobbed each other at midcourt and took turns hoisting the championship trophy.READ MORE: Philadelphia Weather: How Much Snow Will Major Nor'easter Dump On Your Area?
It could all be a prelude to some net cutting ahead.
Josh Hart scored 18 points, Kris Jenkins had 17 and No. 3 Villanova closed out the regular season with an 84-71 win over Georgetown on Saturday.
The Big East champion Wildcats (27-4, 16-2) dominated from the opening tip and looked every bit the favorite to win the conference tournament in New York. Win a second straight Big East tourney, and the Wildcats are all but guaranteed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But Villanova will savor this one against its longtime Big East rival.
The Wildcats raced to a 21-point lead midway through the first half and had a packed house at the Wells Fargo Center going wild. The NBA arena is the site of an NCAA regional final and the Wildcats would love to return and clinch a Final Four berth just a few miles from campus.
Coach Jay Wright refused to look weeks ahead at a potential Final Four coronation.
“No, it’s not easy to envision,” he said. “We have to win games. We have to win a lot of games.”
Without a true star player, the Wildcats relied on their usual mix of team ball and game-changing 3-point shooting. The Wildcats had 14 assists on 16 baskets in the first half and buried six 3s.
Ryan Arcidiacono had the most fun; the senior point guard scored on a reverse layup and then made a no-look dish to Hart down the lane for a 27-6 lead. Arcidiacono’s highlight reel flip was his 500th career assist. He scored 16 points and received a huge standing ovation in his final home game.
Wright greeted “Arch” at the bench and told him, “How cool was that?”
“I don’t think I even said anything,” Arcidiacono said. “I was in shock.”
Jenkins, who scored a career-high 31 points Thursday against Marquette, continued his recent surge. He hit a 3 at the first-half buzzer that sent Nova into the break with a 46-27 lead.
Jenkins averaged 23 points on 56 percent shooting and was 18 of 35 from 3-point range over the last four games.READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy Gives Winter Weather Briefing
L.J. Peak led Georgetown (14-17, 7-11) with 31 points.
Georgetown was a mess in its sixth straight loss and ninth in 10 games overall. Peak fired an air ball and Isaac Copeland’s jumper grazed the rim on the same possession late in the first half, bringing out the Hoya hecklers. The Hoyas are on their longest losing streak since they lost the final nine games of the 2003-04 season.
The Wildcats not only thumped Georgetown on the scoreboard, but also on the recruiting trail: Jenkins, Hart, Daniel Ochefu and Phil Booth are all from Maryland. Georgetown coach John Thompson III, trying to stay off the hot seat headed into the Big East Tournament, called it his most challenging season.
“By far. By far,” he said. “Not close.”
Villanova, which reached No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time in program history, is dominating like it usually does this time of the year. But now comes the tricky part. The Wildcats haven’t advanced out of the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2009 when they reached the Final Four and they were eliminated three times over that span as a No. 1 or 2 NCAA seed.
This season could break that ignominious streak.
“I think they’re poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament,” Thompson said.
Georgetown: The Hoyas are 45-52 against Top 25 teams under Thompson. … Georgetown still leads the series, 44-33. … Hoyas made only 4 of 26 3-pointers.
Villanova: The game was sold out with 20,173 fans at the Wells Fargo Center. The NBA-worst Philadelphia 76ers average 14,721 in the same building. … Villanova is the No. 1 seed in the Big East tourney for the third straight season and fifth time in program history.
The Wildcats are 46-34 at the Wells Fargo Center and sold out the building for the 12th time. Villanova went 4-0 in NCAA Tournament games at the building in 2006 and 2009.
Georgetown and Villanova will play in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.MORE NEWS: 10 Injured In Frick Park Bridge Collapse In Pittsburgh, Officials Say
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