Julio Cortez / Associated Press
The men's 2019 Big East basketball tournament reached a critical point on Friday night as four teams competed for a pair of places in the championship game.
The Villanova Wildcats, the top seeds of the standings, survived a tough test against Xavier Musketeers, while the nightcap featured Big East's player of the year, Markus Howard (Marquette), alongside Myles Powell, star of Seton Hall.
Below you will find the latest Madison Square Garden action.
Semifinals of the Big East 2019 Tournament (March 15th)
N ° 1 Villanova 71, n ° 4 Xavier 67 (OT)
No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 3 Seton Hall, 9pm
Big East 2019 Tournament Finals (March 16)
No. 1 Villanova vs. winner of Marquette-Seton Hall, 18h. AND
*Full tournament information is available on the Big East & # 39;s official site
Villanova Wildcats 71, Xavier Mousquetaires 67
Fighting for their lives in the NCAA, the Xavier Musketeers were ready to face the top ranked Villanova Wildcats.
But eventually, Jay Wright's group proved why he was the reigning national champion.
It was an early back-and-forth battle as neither team could create a lot of separation.
The Musketeers found themselves trailing by three, just past the midpoint of the first half when Ryan Welage's 3-pointer caused a 17-5 run.
The Wildcats did not go along with eight first half turnovers.
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With 15 points from second-class goaltender Paul Scruggs in the 5 out of 5 shot, Xavier led 34-28 in the break.
Villanova quickly made a hand possession game in the opening minutes coming out of the locker room. From there, it was a fight until the end.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Scruggs was practically indefensible tonight.
He failed in his first eight attempts. His first free kick did not end before more than seven minutes of play in the second half. It did not cool down, though.
Scruggs chose the perfect night for a career-high 28 points, including four three points.
Behind the big night of Scruggs, the Musketeers kept their heads for most of the second half, but they could not put an end to their troubles.
A 5-1 run in the final minute of regularization, aided by a fortuitous rebound, helped the Wildcats overtake in overtime.
Senior guard Phil Booth put 28 points to help Villanova stay in the game all night long. But when the team needed a big bucket, Jermaine Samuels was more than ready for the task:
The second-year striker finished the match with 17.
After losing 17-15 at the end of the first half, the Wildcats did not lead for 29 minutes. And yet, they found a way to escape with the victory. This is what experience can do for a team.
Xavier (18-15 years old) missed a golden opportunity to get his fate out of the hand of the selection committee by winning the league's automatic application. Now the musketeers must sweat Sunday in the selection to see if they will receive an invitation to the big dance.
Meanwhile, Villanova (24-9) is waiting for the winner of the Marquette-Seton Hall in the Big East Championship match as he looks for his fourth tournament title in five years.