Ryan Arcidiacono

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

VIDEO: Villanova’s Arcidiacono, Ochefu, Howard surprise 4-year old

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Blaise surprise from Kyle Scott on Vimeo.

The days since winning the program’s second national title have been busy for Villanova, with Jay Wright and company being celebrated on campus and throughout the city of Philadelphia. But the schedule didn’t keep assistant coach Ashley Howard and seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu from surprising a special 4-year old boy.

According to Kyle Scott of Crossing Broad the trio showed up at the home of 4-year old Blaise, who’s currently fighting a rare form of cancer. With his basement being refurbished into a play area for both he and his little sister Lucy, Blaise found a surprise waiting for him. Also neither of Blaise’s parents, both of whom attended Villanova per the story, knew of the surprise visit either.

You can watch the video above, and more can be read about Blaise’s story here.

h/t Kyle Scott, Crossing Broad

Hart leads Villanova past Hoyas 81-67 in Big East quarters

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NEW YORK (AP) Josh Hart scored 25 points, Ryan Arcidiacono added 19 points and six assists, and third-ranked Villanova pulled away from Georgetown in the second half to open its bid for consecutive Big East Tournament titles with an 81-67 quarterfinal win Thursday.

Kris Jenkins added 15 points for the top-seeded Wildcats (28-4), who made 13 of their 21 3-point attempts.

The eighth-seeded Hoyas (15-18), whose first-round game ended about 15 hours earlier, led 47-46 midway through the second half before Arcidiacono and Hart led Villanova on a game-breaking run.

Georgetown had 16 offensive rebounds to just four for the Wildcats but converted them into only 12 second-chance points. Villanova, meanwhile, took full advantage of the Hoyas’ mistakes, turning 11 turnovers into 20 points.

The Wildcats had been 0-5 against Georgetown at the Big East Tournament.

L.J. Peak led the Hoyas with 19 points.

Villanova meets Butler or Providence in Friday’s semifinals.

With his team down a point with just over 10 minutes left, Hart knifed through the defense for a layup that put Villanova ahead for good. Arcidiacono hit two 3-pointers then dished to Hart in transition off a turnover for a three-point play that made it 60-48 with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.

Villanova big man Daniel Ochefu, playing on a sprained ankle, had no points and no rebounds in 13 minutes. But the taller Hoyas weren’t able to take advantage enough inside. Center Bradley Hayes, who returned Wednesday night with 10 points after missing six games with a broken left hand, wasn’t able to get many touches other than one stretch at the start of the second half.

Neither team scored for nearly five minutes late in the first half before Jenkins hit a 3-pointer with 8 seconds remaining to give Villanova a 28-27 lead at the break.

FOULS OUT

There were just eight fouls called and no free throws shot in the first half, with the referees allowing physical play more reminiscent of a 1980s Big East game. It was a complete reversal from the tournament’s previous game that ended about 12 hours earlier, when Marquette and St. John’s combined for 53 fouls and 66 free throws Wednesday night.

There were 27 fouls and 37 free throws in the second half, though many of those came when Georgetown was playing catch-up.

TIP-INS

Georgetown: Leading scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera was poked in the eye with just under four minutes left in the first half. He returned in the final seconds. Georgetown failed to score in his absence. Smith-Rivera finished with eight points on 4-of-11 shooting, missing all four 3-point tries. … Hayes had 13 points and nine rebounds.

Villanova: Arcidiacono twice went diving into the stands, once in each half. … Darryl Reynolds had four blocks and three steals.

UP NEXT

Villanova plays Butler or Providence in Friday’s semifinals.

Georgetown’s season likely ends with a 15-18 record.

No. 5 Xavier beats No. 1 Villanova, displays tools needed for deep tourney run

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Since joining the Big East in 2013 No. 5 Xavier amassed a record of 34 wins and 16 losses against teams other than No. 1 Villanova. Their record against the Wildcats: 0-6, with an average margin of defeat of 17.2 points per game. For as much as was made about the impact of Wednesday’s game on NCAA tournament seeding, this was more about Chris Mack’s team getting over the hump against the program that has set the standard in the Big East since realignment.

Xavier got the job done at the Cintas Center, winning 90-83 in a game that changed when reserve guard JP Macura checked into the game.

Macura provided the Musketeers a spark on both ends of the floor, going on a personal 7-0 run in a contest that went back and forth for the game’s first eight minutes. Xavier’s ability to attack offensively from multiple areas, be it from the guard spots, the wings or the post, proved problematic for a Villanova team that’s been better defensively this season than they were in either of the two seasons prior.

Edmond Sumner and the rest of the Xavier guards took better care of the basketball than they did in the first meeting, a 31-points Wildcat victory (Sumner left that game after just two minutes due to injury). Sumner’s had issues with turnovers at times this season, but that wasn’t the case against a Villanova perimeter rotation that can get after teams with its 3/4-court pressure. Sumner turned the ball over just three times, and with nine assists (not to mention 19 points and six rebounds) to his credit that’s a good number for the redshirt freshman.

As a team Xavier committed just ten turnovers, nearly half the number they racked up New Year’s Eve (19). Overall the Musketeer guards outplayed Villanova’s backcourt, with Macura adding 19 points and Myles Davis 16 as Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono got off to slow starts. Villanova received a high-level performance from forward Kris Jenkins, who scored 19 points in the first half. But once he ran into foul trouble in the second stanza, by way of having to deal with the likes of Jalen Reynolds and James Farr inside (Daniel Ochefu struggling didn’t help, either), Villanova lost the one player who managed to make things happen offensively.

Some may look to use this result as an “I told you so” opportunity in regards to Villanova. Sure they won’t be able to do much about the recently formed perception of their program, which is viewed with skepticism as their last two NCAA tournament appearances have taken precedence over Jay Wright’s past achievements (Sweet 16 in 2005 and 2008, Elite 8 in 2006 and Final Four in 2009), until the NCAA tournament. But this is still a team, especially in this particular season, capable of playing deep into March given their experience and talent.

Wednesday night was more about Xavier, which showed the attributes of a team capable of going where no prior group of Musketeers have gone before. Chris Mack’s team is talented, and it is deep as well. Xavier played unselfishly against Villanova, with 24 of their 30 made field goals being assisted and six players scoring in double figures. Add in a defense that took away many of Villanova’s primary scoring options, thus forcing the Wildcats to call upon Jenkins, and Xavier managed to do enough to not only make a statement of its national capabilities but also keep their Big East title hopes alive.

And even though Xavier didn’t need much of a confidence boost, if there’s a “Round 3” at Madison Square Garden in a couple weeks they now have concrete evidence that they can get over the hump that is Villanova.

No. 16 Providence hands No. 4 Villanova first Big East in overtime thriller

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The streak is over.

No. 4 Villanova had won 22 straight games against Big East competition, dating back to a Jan. 19th, 2015, loss at Georgetown, but that run came to an end on Sunday afternoon as No. 16 Providence and Kris Dunn beat the Wildcats in an overtime thriller in the Wells Fargo Center, 82-76.

Dunn was, once again, the star for the Friars, finishing with 13 points, 14 assists, five boards and three steals to go along with a host of tough plays in key moments late in the game. It’s performances like that that have made Dunn a shoe-in for first-team all-american, a favorite to win National Player of the Year and a soon-to-be top five pick in the NBA Draft.

We all know how good Dunn is.

But the key to this win for Providence was the play of his supporting cast.

The number that truly matters here for Dunn are those 14 assists. Everyone knows how Providence wants to play. They put the ball in Dunn’s hands and they let him create, and the adjustment that opponents have made in recent weeks has been to slough off of the other Friars. If Kyron Cartwright or Junior Lomomba or Rodney Bullock is going to beat them, then so be it.

And that’s kind of what happened on Sunday. Cartwright and Lomomba combined for 25 points and six assists, hitting 3-for-8 from beyond the arc and capitalizing on the times when Villanova left them open. Ben Bentil, who may be the most under-appreciated player in all of college basketball, finished with another monster night, going for 31 points and 12 boards.

Those are the difference makers for the Friars, and quite often whether or not they actually make that difference comes down to whether or not they hit the shots that Dunn creates.

Because they are going to get the looks. Dunn is that talented of a playmaker and that unselfish. When opponents send two and three defenders at him, if they over-help, he’ll find the guy that’s left open.

On Sunday, those shots went down.

The loss cuts Villanova’s lead in the Big East standings in half, as Xavier, Providence, Creighton and Georgetown now all sit just a game behind the Wildcats in the loss column. Ryan Arcidiacono led the way for Villanova with 19 points, hitting another huge shot — his three with seven seconds left forced the over time. Josh Hart is Villanova’s best player and the one guy that might have a real shot to overtake Dunn as Big East Player of the Year, but Arch is probably Villanova’s most valuable player.

He’s better than what you see in the box score.

Josh Hart, defense deliver in No. 11 Villanova’s win at No. 18 Butler

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Entering Sunday’s game against No. 11 Villanova, No. 18 Butler was already 1-2 in Big East play and in need of a win to keep close to the top half of the conference standings. Chris Holtmann’s Bulldogs were competitive throughout, but they ultimately fell short for two reasons: Villanova’s work on the defensive end, and the continued emergence of Josh Hart in Jay Wright’s offensive attack.

Hart scored 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, leading the Wildcats offensively in their 60-55 win at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Hart’s made strides throughout his time at Villanova, going from role player as a freshman to the Big East’s best sixth man (and Big East tournament MOP) as a sophomore. As a junior Hart has been Villanova’s most efficient offensive option, entering Sunday’s game averaging a team-best 15.5 points per game and shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from three.

On a team loaded with guards who can hurt teams off the bounce, the 6-foot-5 Hart can score on multiple levels. While their efficiency numbers on the season are slightly lower than what last season’s team produced, Hart’s continued growth is a key factor for Villanova as they look to win a third consecutive Big East title.

Sunday night he was the player entrusted with getting the Wildcats key baskets on multiple occasions, and more often than not Hart delivered as he scored 14 of his 22 in the second half.

Villanova’s win wasn’t solely about Hart, however. Playing against a Butler team that also ranks among the ten most efficient offensive teams in the country, Villanova was able to limit the Bulldogs to 35.8 percent shooting from the field. With their perimeter depth Villanova can make defensive switches and not find themselves in mismatches. Add in a senior big man in Daniel Ochefu who can be a deterrent in the post as well as move his feet well enough to keep opposing guards from turning the corner in ball screen actions, and the Wildcats have the pieces needed for a quality defense.

Villanova was able to keep Tyler Lewis in check, as he finished with two points and one assist. And while Roosevelt Jones did score 20 points he didn’t have a single assist, which is rare given his ability to create for others in Butler’s offense. Villanova was able to keep Butler’s best creators from doing just that, and as a result they were able to short-circuit a potent offensive attack.

Butler assists on nearly 53 percent of their made baskets on the season; against Villanova the Bulldogs managed a total of six assists on 19 made baskets.

No 4-0 in Big East play, Villanova sits atop the Big East standings as they did in each of the last two seasons. And if they continue to defend as they have, and Josh Hart continues his development into one of the Big East’s best players, the Wildcats can win another Big East title.

No. 16 Villanova makes statement with blowout win over No. 6 Xavier

(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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And then there were three.

No. 6 Xavier went to No. 16 Villanova on New Year’s Eve as one of four undefeated teams remaining in the country and they left with a 95-64 loss and less than 48 hours to get ready to play at No. 9 Butler.

It was just one of those days for the Musketeers. Their most important player, point guard Edmond Sumner, was wheeled off the court on a stretcher less than three minutes into the game and Xavier never seemed to respond. They gave up an immediate 13-2 run to the Wildcats and eventually found themselves down by as much as 20 in the first half.

They simply had no answer, and with every three that Villanova hit — they made seven of their first nine and eight total in the first half — the Musketeers just looked more and more demoralized. This was a conference road game against the two-time conference champions where Xavier played poorly and lost their star before the first TV timeout. That’s how blowouts to top ten teams happen.

And give credit to Villanova.

The Wildcats had an edge on Thursday. Ryan Arcidiacono scored 17 of their first 25 points, hitting five straight threes to start the game, as Villanova busted out of a season-long slump to shoot 13-for-25 from beyond the arc. That first half performance gets all the more impressive when you factor in that Josh Hart, Villanova’s best player, managed just six scoreless minutes before heading to the bench with a pair of fouls.

There has been quite a bit of speculation that this Villanova may not be as good as the last two Villanova teams, that their reliance on the three-ball — more than half of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc — and their inability to knock them down consistently would be their great downfall.

It still may be.

But this looked like a team that had a statement to make. With five minutes left and a 30 point lead, Villanova’s starters will still diving on the floor for loose balls.

The Wildcats wanted to let the conference, and the nation, know that the Big East title still runs through The Pavilion.

As far as Xavier is concerned, there are going to be a lot of people that hop off of this bandwagon if they end up losing at Butler on Saturday, which is something that seems fairly likely if Sumner can’t get healthy by then. The Musketeers have depth and weapons at every position … except for the point guard spot. They need Sumner to get healthy, and when — is? — he is able to get healthy and return to the floor is now the most important story line of Xavier’s season.

Because with Sumner, they can win the Big East and get to a Final Four.

I don’t know if they can without him.