NEW YORK — Mikal Bridges scored 25 points and hit two 3-pointers in overtime to lift No. 2 Villanova to a 76-66 win over Providence in the Big East Tournament championship game Saturday night.
The Wildcats (30-4) won their second straight Big East Tournament and third in four years (losing in the 2016 final). They put the bow on a fantastic season that should have them earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Villanova had rolled to a pair of dominant victories in the tourney and held off a pesky Providence team that played its third straight overtime game.
The fifth-seeded Friars (21-13) rallied in the second half from yet another double-digit hole and seemed set to pull off one more upset and earn the automatic NCAA berth. Providence erased a 17-point hole in the second half to beat top-seeded Xavier to reach the final. With one stunning rally on its resume, Providence nearly made it two.
Kyron Cartwright hit a jumper with 1:38 left that tied the game at 58-all and Alpha Diallo scored on a driving layup with 40 seconds left for a 60-58 lead.
Big East player of the year Jalen Brunson tied it for Villanova with two free throws.
Providence missed a last-gasp shot at the buzzer and played in its third straight overtime game.
The Friars ran out of gas in OT. Bridges, who scored 25 points, opened overtime with a 3 and hit another that helped stretch the lead for good. Brunson tied a career-high with 31 points on an emphatic dunk that sent the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy.
Brunson proved his worth as the best in the conference. He hit four 3s and made 12 of 23 overall from the floor, showing on the national stage why he’s a candidate for national player of the year.
Providence coach Ed Cooley may have split his pants as he coached the second half with a towel tucked in his waist.
It almost worked as a rally towel.
Cartwright put Providence’s comeback in overdrive when he hit a 3 that made it 51-46 and had Cooley smiling and clapping on the sideline. He loved it even more when Cartwright came right back and hit another 3 to pulled the Friars within two.
Drew Edwards flexed his biceps when he was fouled on a tying basket and had the crowd chanting “Let’s Go Friars!” headed into a timeout. He sank the free to give Providence its first lead of the game, 52-51.
The Wildcats snatched the lead back and Bridges buried a 3 from the top of the arc that sent the team to their feet. Brunson was whistled next time down for an offensive foul and coach Jay Wright twirled and stretched his arms toward the sky in protest. Eric Paschall hit a floater in the lane that seemed to steady the Wildcats.
Providence just kept on coming. The Friars had defeated three top-five teams this season and was soaring following two straight overtime victories over Creighton and the Musketeers to reach the final.
Diallo led with 22 points and Cartwright scored 19 for Providence.
Providence: The Friars need some rest following a grueling weekend in New York.
Villanova: The Wildcats are the best in the Big East. What else is new?
Providence: The Friars are headed to their fifth straight NCAA Tournament. Providence had made only six tourney appearances from 1988 to 2013 since its trip to the Final Four in 1987.
Villanova: The Wildcats should be a No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Wildcats lost on the opening weekend in 2014, 2015 and 2017. In 2016? They won the national championship.