Villanova and Seton Hall opened the Big East Tournament quarterfinals. During the regular season Villanova beat Seton Hall twice by margins of 16 and 17 points. The Wildcats were down by eight at half time, after Villanova’s Josh Hart ended the first half by scoring six straight points. Seton Hall was very measured in the first half against Villanova’s trapping press. The Pirates patience led to good passing lanes and quality shots for Patrik Auda (13 points, all in the first half) and Jeff Teague (a game high 19 points). Villanova got back into the game during the second half by using pressure defense which created steals and transition baskets. The playing making ability of Seton Hall’s Sterling Gibbs late in the game was the difference. First, Gibbs dished an assist to Jaren Sina for a three pointer to put Seton Hall up 62-61. After, Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard made a tough shot in the lane to put Villanova up 63-62. Gibbs made a step back jump shot to win the game for Seton Hall 64-63.
In the second game, St. John’s played Providence. Both teams finished 10-8 in the Big East and split their regular season games. In the first half both teams looked for early offense and St. Johns was able to take a seven-point lead late in the first half. But, in the last 5:34 of the first half, Providence went on a 14-5 run to take a halftime lead of 36-33. Providence used this momentum and scoring from Josh Fortune (24 points) to create a 17-point lead in the second half. In spite of this, St.John’s cut the lead to one point with 1:15 left in the game behind D’Angelo Harrison’s 21 points and Rysheed Jordan’s 17 points. But Providence used good late game free throw shooting and defense to win 79-74.
In the first game of the evening session, Creighton faced DePaul. Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Jahenns Manigat set an early tone by making three point shots. McDermott set a new Big East record with 27 first half points. Creighton’s early play gave them a lead they would not lose as the Bluejays beat DePaul 84-62. DePaul never cut the lead to single digits in the second half. With Villanova’s loss Creighton has the best record for a team remaining in the tournament.
In the last game of the day Xavier edged Marquette 68-65. In the first half Marquette jumped out to an early lead using freshman Deonte Burton’s (23 points) energy and scoring. Xavier battled back to take a 31-29 halftime lead behind the play of Justin Martin (19 points on 3-of-6 3PT). In the second half, Xavier used their pick and roll offense to provide more efficient scoring. They shot 50 percent in the second half compared to 44 percent in the first half. Shooting percentage and late game free throws closed the game for Xavier in the tight win. The win should be enough to get Xavier to the NCAA Tournament.
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