Villanova clinches Big East in win over Xavier
Cincinnati, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Darrun Hilliard II scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half to lead sixth-ranked Villanova to its first outright Big East title since the 1981-82 season with a 77-70 win over Xavier on Thursday.
JayVaughn Pinkston netted 15 points, James Bell tallied 12 and Ryan Arcidiacono added 11 points with seven assists for the Wildcats (27-3, 15-2 Big East), who will enter Saturday's regular season finale against Georgetown with five straight wins.
Bell entered the game six points shy of reaching 1,000 points in his career, joining Pinkston as active members in the 1,000-point club.
Justin Martin paced the Musketeers (20-11, 10-8) with 20 points, while Semaj Christon and Isaiah Philmore scored 18 and 15 points, respectively, in defeat.
Xavier dropped its final two regular season games following two straight wins, which included a 75-69 victory over then-No. 9 Creighton on Saturday.
Hilliard hit three free throws to close the scoring in the first half and give the Wildcats a 41-36 lead at the break.
Bell then slammed down a dunk to open the second half before Hilliard knocked down a 3-pointer to push the lead to double digits. Xavier didn't allow the lead to grow, with Christon answering with a layup and Jalen Reynolds making a basket to cut the deficit to six at the 15-minute mark.
Villanova continually stretched the lead to 10, but the Musketeers had an answer and remained in shouting distance of the visitors.
A pair of Josh Hart free throws gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the game, 69-57, with a 1 1/2 remaining, but Xavier had one more run left.
After Philmore made a pair of free throws and Pinkston made an uncontested layup, Dee Davis hit back-to-back 3s to make it a six-point game with just over a minute to play.
Bell and Hilliard each split a pair at the line around a Martin trey, then Christon slashed through the lane for a layup to cut the deficit to three, 73-70, with 21 ticks on the clock.
Hart proceeded to calmly knock down two free throws and Myles Davis' 3-point attempt was off the mark before Bell sealed it with another pair from the stripe.
Earlier, no team led by more than seven in the opening half, with Xavier scoring the first seven points of the game to take an early lead. Villanova quickly answered with seven straight of its own, and the two teams went back- and-forth before 'Nova gained some breathing room by halftime.
Bell became the 58th Wildcat to record 1,000 points ... Xavier closed out its home slate with a 15-2 record ...Villanova shot 23-for-49 (46.9 percent) from the field and held its counterparts to 23-for-60 (38.3 percent) shooting ... The Wildcats' bench outscoredf Xavier's reserves, 18-3.
03/06 22:15:58 ET