(Villanova’s Eric Paschall drives the lane – @NovaMBB)
In the Big East Tournament quarterfinals Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, Villanova, the top seed, beat Providence, 73-62. They will face Xavier, who beat Creighton 63-61, in the other afternoon game, in the semifinals on Friday night at 6:30 p.m.
VILLANOVA 73, PROVIDENCE 62
The Wildcats were led by Eric Paschell, who had 20 points on 6-13 from the field, including 1-4 on three-pointers, with 10 rebounds to give him a double-double. as well as a couple of assists.
Conor Gillespie had 19 points (7-15 FG, 5-10 threes), with 6 assists and a rebound. Phil Booth had 13 points (5-11 FG, 2-7 threes), with 3 rebounds and an assist. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree had 8 points (2-6 FG) and 10 rebounds, just missing a double-double, off the bench.
Providence, the 8-seed who beat Butler on Wednesday night, to get to this one, fell to 18-15 overall and 8-12 in Big East play (including tournament games). They were led by Nate Watson, who had 15 points on 5-7 from the field, with 5 rebounds. Alpha Diallo and Isaiah Jackson each had 14 points, with Diallo shooting 5-8 from the field (1-3 threes), with 3 rebounds and 2 assists, while Jackson was 4-10 from the field (2-7 threes), with 3 assists and a rebound.
Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said of the game, “Good effort against a Providence team that’s really starting to come together. The guys played a great game last night. If you look at their team the last five or six games, even their losses, close losses, tough games, and they’re really playing good basketball. So I think we beat a good team, a good physical, defensive team. It wasn’t pretty, but you’ve got to be willing to play ugly and win some of those games. So I’m proud of those guys that they did that.”
Paschall said of the leadership role that he and Booth have taken on as this is a younger Villanova team than in recent years, “Coach tells us we have to lead by example, talk to our younger guys, and just do all the little things — playing defense, rebounding, not worrying about if our shot’s going in. I just feel like our whole team has been doing that. Our whole team’s had a great attitude, and we’re taking a step in the right direction.”
Wright said of how special it is when his team faces Providence in the Big East Tournament, “I just think they’re really well coached, and Ed’s been there a long time. I’ve been there. We really know what each other are doing, and we’ve had so many tough games with each other. I think the players are very comfortable in terms of style of play. The styles match up similarly. They’re very tough defensively, very physical. They are similar styles of play. I’m probably complimenting us more than them when I say that, because they play really physical. We want to be that physical and that tough. That’s what all these games have come down to. Look at last year, we went to the NCAA Tournament — you can say it afterwards pretty handily — but this game here, we could have easily lost against Providence in overtime.”
XAVIER 63, CREIGHTON 61
Xavier, the fourth-seed in the tournament, fought off a late charge by Creighton to pull out the victory, as Zach Hankins got the winning layup with 21 seconds left.
Creighton had one last chance with 4 seconds left when Ty-Shon Alexander, who had 21 points, had his jumper blocked by Kyle Castlin.
Hankins led Xavier with 22 points on a superb 11-15 from the field, and 9 rebounds, coming just short of a double-double, with 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. Naji Marshall had 11 points (4-12 FG, 1-5 threes), with 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Castlin scored 10 points on 4-7 from the field (2-3 on threes), with 3 rebounds and an assist.