No. 2 Villanova wins Big East tourney

NEW YORK (AP) — Josh Hart scored 29 points and No. 2 Villanova beat Creighton 74-60 on Saturday to win the Big East Tournament and probably lock up the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Hart, the conference player of the year, became just the third player to win the tournament MVP award twice, joining Patrick Ewing of Georgetown and Peyton Siva of Louisville.

Villanova (31-3) played Villanova basketball, just as the Wildcats did last season in winning the national championship. Good defense, sharing the ball and making 3-pointers is the formula that has led them to four consecutive Big East regular-season titles.

This was their third Big East Tournament crown, the others coming in 1995 and 2015.

The Wildcats had their hands on so many Creighton passes, they forced 17 turnovers that led to 21 points. And with Hart leading the way, they made every big shot they needed.

Jalen Brunson added 17 points for Villanova. Kris Jenkins, whose 3-pointer won the national championship game last year, had 14.

Cole Huff and Marcus Foster each scored 13 points to lead Creighton (25-9).

Villanova, which lost last season’s Big East championship game to Seton Hall, closed the first half on a 25-11 run to go up 36-22. Hart had 12 points in the spurt and Brunson added eight. The two combined to score the Wildcats’ final 20 points in the semifinals.

The lead reached 46-26, and the closest the Bluejays got the rest of the way was 12.

Hart, who along with Brunson defended Foster, scored every way imaginable, from 3-pointers to acrobatic drives. He finished the tournament with 63 points and was 21 of 41 from the field. The 29 points marked his third-highest total of the season.

Creighton was 2 of 12 from 3-point range in the first half and the Bluejays committed 10 turnovers, only 2.3 fewer than they averaged per game this season.

The title game was played before a sellout crowd of 19,812 at Madison Square Garden, which hosted the tournament for the 35th consecutive year.

No. 8 Kentucky 79, Alabama 74

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — De’Aaron Fox scored a career-high 28 points, including seven straight down the stretch, and Malik Monk added 20 to lift No. 8 Kentucky past Alabama 79-74 in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal on Saturday.

The Wildcats shot 52 percent from the floor and 69 percent from the line after missing numerous chances that left openings for the pesky Crimson Tide to stay close. But Kentucky converted chances when needed, hitting 13 of 17 free throws in the final six minutes with Fox making 5 of 7 in particular and 11 of 15 overall.

Bam Adebayo had 10 points and nine rebounds to send top-seeded Kentucky (28-5) to today’s championship game against the winner of the other semifinal between Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

Dazon Ingram had 17 points for No. 5 seed Alabama (19-14), which outrebounded Kentucky 33-28, but couldn’t get the basket when needed to overcome the Wildcats.

No. 23 Iowa State 80,

No. 11 West Virginia 74

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Monte Morris scored 17 points, 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 on Saturday night for the Cyclones’ third Big 12 Tournament 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 last 10 games, with their only loss during that stretch coming a week ago in Morgantown.

They avenged that defeat in a big way at the Sprint Center.

Iowa State has never lost in four appearances in the Big 12 title game, while the Mountaineers (26-8) remain without a conference tournament title of any kind since winning the Big East in 2010.

Jevon Carter had 18 points for West Virginia.

No. 12 SMU 70, UCF 59

HARTFORD, Conn. — Sterling Brown scored 22 points and No. 12 SMU beat UCF 70-59 on Saturday in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.

Semi Ojeleye added 17 points, and Shake Milton had 14 of his 16 points in the second half for the Mustangs (29-4). They are back in the championship game after missing last year’s tournament because of NCAA sanctions. The Mustangs won the title in 2015.

SMU has won 15 straight games and 25 of its last 26 after a 4-3 start to their season.

B.J. Taylor had 20 points, and Nick Banyard 16 for the Knights (21-11). They had won six in a row.

No. 14 Duke 75,

No. 22 Notre Dame 69

NEW YORK — Jayson Tatum took over in the final two minutes, making key plays on both ends of the floor, and No. 14 Duke became the first team to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament with four wins in four days by rallying to beat No. 22 Notre Dame 75-69 on Saturday night.

The freshman forward finished a spectacular week in Brooklyn with 19 points and eight rebounds for the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (27-8). Duke won its first ACC Tournament championship since 2011 and its 20th overall, most in league history.

Bonzie Colson was a beast for third-seeded Notre Dame (25-9) with 29 points and nine rebounds.

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 finals at Barclays Center and then came from eight back with 11:35 left to beat the Irish.

No. 15 Cincinnati 81,

Connecticut 71

HARTFORD, Conn. — Gary Clark scored 24 points to lead No. 15 Cincinnati to an 81-71 win over UConn in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Saturday night.

Jacob Evans added 21 points and Troy Caupain had 19 for the Bearcats, who will be seeking their first AAC title today against No. 12 SMU.

Jalen Adams scored 20 points and Christian Vital had 19 for UConn. The Huskies finish their season 16-17, their first losing campaign in 30 years.

It was a typically chippy game between the teams, whose rivalry dates to the old Big East. They combined for 56 fouls, 32 committed by UConn.

Cincinnati was 38 of 46 from the foul line. UConn made 20 of its 25 free throw attempts.

No. 24 Wisconsin 76,

Northwestern 48

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin revved up the defense against weary Northwestern and got the desired result, a 76-48 victory Saturday that earned the No. 24 Badgers a berth in the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the third time in five years.

Nigel Hayes scored 18 points and Ethan Happ added 16 for the second-seeded Badgers. They never trailed in their third straight victory — second in the tournament — following a run of five losses in six games.

Wisconsin (25-8) will vie for its fourth Big Ten title today against No. 8 seed Michigan, which will be playing its fourth game in four days. It will be the seventh championship game appearance for the Badgers, trailing only the eight by Ohio State.

Northwestern (23-11) was playing for the second time in less than 24 hours and third game in three days, and it showed. Coming off wins over Rutgers and No. 3 seed Maryland, the Wildcats missed 20 of 27 shots in the first half, had only one assist and trailed 38-21.

Scottie Lindsey scored 16 points for Northwestern.

By Paul Wager

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