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Villanova beats Creighton, wins Big East; Duke rallies for ACC title

Villanova’s Josh Hart becomes only the third player in Big East history to be named tournament MVP twice.
Villanova’s Josh Hart becomes only the third player in Big East history to be named tournament MVP twice.
Published Mar. 12, 2017

NEW YORK — This time, Villanova is going into the NCAAs with a conference tournament title and probably the No. 1 overall seed.

The second-ranked Wildcats will find out today when and where their national championship defense will begin. On Saturday, they showed that when they play Villanova basketball, they are very tough to beat.

Josh Hart scored 29 to lead Villanova to a 74-60 victory over Creighton for the Big East title.

"We wanted to set the tone," the senior said, wearing a net around his neck. "We wanted to play 40 minutes of Villanova basketball."

They did.

Good defense, sharing the ball and making 3s is the formula that has led top-seeded Villanova (31-3) to four consecutive Big East regular-season titles. It's also Villanova's third Big East tourney crown, the others coming in 1995 and 2015.

Hart, the league's player of the year, is just the third player to win the tournament MVP award twice, joining Georgetown's Patrick Ewing and Louisville's Peyton Siva.

Hart and fellow seniors Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds have posted a record of 128-16 in their four seasons.

A Devil of a run

Jayson Tatum took over in the final two minutes as No. 14 Duke became the first team to capture the ACC tourney with four wins in four days, rallying to beat No. 22 Notre Dame 75-69 in New York. The freshman finished a spectacular week with 19 points and eight rebounds for the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (27-8). Duke won its 20th ACC title, most in league history. The Blue Devils came from double digits down in the second half to beat both No. 10 Louisville and No. 6 North Carolina to get to the final, then came from eight back with 11:35 left to beat the Irish.

Did you know?

Villanova is the first reigning national champion to enter the NCAA Tournament having won at least 31 games. It also has the fewest losses by a defending national champ entering the tournament since 2001-02 Duke (three).

End of line for Knights

UCF's run in the AAC ended in the semifinals at Hartford, Conn., as Sterling Brown scored 22 and No. 12 SMU (29-4) beat the Knights (21-11) 70-59. Neither team led by more than six before Shake Milton stole the ball from 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall under the UCF basket and made a 3 for a 42-34 lead. UCF's B.J. Taylor was trying to call a timeout that led to a technical. Brown extended the lead to 10 with two free throws. SMU plays No. 15 Cincinnati, an 81-71 winner over UConn, in today's final.

Raining Cats and Hogs

Arkansas knew it had an edge being much more rested and deeper than Vanderbilt, and the Razorbacks ran right over the Commodores on their way to today's SEC title game in Nashville against No. 8 Kentucky. Moses Kingsley had 12 points and 13 rebounds as the third-seeded Razorbacks (25-8) beat Vanderbilt 76-62. "Just seemed like Arkansas was a little faster to the ball, a little faster to the rim, shot a little bit better, did everything a little bit better than us," said Vandy coach Bryce Drew, whose club eliminated No. 2 seed Florida on Friday night. De'Aaron Fox scored a career-high 28 to lift top seed UK past Alabama 79-74.

Badgers romp in Big Ten

Wisconsin revved up the defense against weary Northwestern and got the desired result, a 76-48 win that earned the No. 24 Badgers a berth in today's Big Ten title game in Washington for the third time in five years. Nigel Hayes scored 18 for the second-seeded Badgers.

"This team takes pride in what they do defensively, and how consistent and good they can be," coach Greg Gard said.

Wisconsin (25-8) vies for its fourth conference tourney title today against No. 8 seed Michigan, which will be playing its fourth game in four days. Derrick Walton had 29 points to carry UM to an 84-77 win over Minnesota.

Cyclones pull upset

Monte Morris scored 17, Deonte Burton and Matt Thomas helped him deal with West Virginia's attacking defense, and No. 23 Iowa State beat the No. 11 Mountaineers 80-74 in Kansas City, Mo., for the Cyclones' third Big 12 title in four years. Burton had 16 points and Thomas finished with 12 for the fourth-seeded Cyclones (23-10), who will enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the nation's hottest teams. They've won nine of their past 10, with their only loss during that stretch coming a week ago in Morgantown.

Big blow for Ducks

Oregon senior F Chris Boucher is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered Friday in the Pac-12 semifinals. Boucher has been a key cog during Oregon's rise, helping lead the team to the NCAA Elite Eight last season by setting a school record with 110 blocks.

They're in

Payton Henson scored 17, Anthony Lamb had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and host Vermont (29-5) beat Albany 56-53 to win its sixth America East tournament. … Jaylin Walker scored 30 to lead sixth-seeded Kent State (22-13) to its first NCAA berth since 2008, beating Akron in the MAC 70-65 at Cleveland. … Patrick Cole scored 18 and North Carolina Central beat host Norfolk State 67-59 in the MEAC final. … Top seed Nevada (28-6) earned its first NCAA berth in 10 years after a 79-71 win over Colorado State in the Mountain West at Las Vegas. … No. 1 seed Texas Southern (24-11) beat Alcorn State 53-50 in the SWAC final at Houston. … Top seed North Dakota (22-10) beat Weber State 93-89 in overtime in the Big Sky at Reno, Nev., for its first NCAA bid. … Giddy Potts matched his season high with 30 points to lead Middle Tennessee (20-15) to its second straight C-USA title, 83-72 over Marshall in Birmingham, Ala.

The wisdom of 'Huggy'

"We'll play somebody second round, somebody like Cincinnati or Kentucky. I don't know how the numbers always work out that way, but somehow they find a way for the numbers to work out where (UK coach John Calipari) and I end up in the same region. I don't think they could stand both of us at the Final Four."

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins

Women

Regular-season champ Bethune-Cookman (21-10), 15-1 in the MEAC coming into the game, was upset in its finale at Norfolk, Va., by No. 3 seed Hampton, 52-49. … Peyton Ferris scored 23 as top seed Montana State (25-6) beat Idaho State 62-56 for the Big Sky title in Reno, Nev. … Tashia Brown scored 17 and Kendall Noble 15 to lead top seed Western Kentucky (27-6) over Southern Miss 67-56 for the C-USA title in Birmingham, Ala. … In the MAC at Cleveland, Mikaela Boyd scored a career-high 27 and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Toledo (25-8) over Northern Illinois 82-71. … Joyce Kennerson poured in 29, including the clinching free throw with 4.7 seconds left, as Texas Southern (23-9) earned its first NCAA berth with a 70-66 win over Grambling in the SWAC at Houston. … Madison Montgomery drained a clutch 3 late to boost Long Beach State (23-10) to a 56-55 title win over UC Santa Barbara in the Big West at Anaheim, Calif. … Lauren Brown scored 17 as Elon (27-6) earned its first NCAA berth after beating James Madison 78-60 in the Colonial final at Harrisonburg, Pa.

Times wires

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