Catching Up on Conference Tournaments

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Familiarity was not enough for Marquette to hang around a Villanova team with lofty tournament aspirations.

The madness of March is in full swing and our remaining City 6 teams are doing battle in their respective conference tournament. Here’s a breakdown of all the action from Thursday.

Villanova 84, Marquette 49 – Box Score

They say it’s tough to defeat an opponent 3 times in a season. Well, a pretty easy way to overcome that is simply to never miss from three. In their quarterfinal contest with Marquette, Villanova tied both a school and Big East tournament record with 17 made threes on the afternoon. The Cats shot a sparkling 58.6% from behind the arc (17-29), led by Josh Hart, who made a career-high 5 threes on 7 attempts for 20 points. Darrun Hilliard and Dylan Ennis each shot 3-6 on threes and were the other Wildcats to finish in double figures with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

What will continue to carry Villanova, even when they’re not treating the offensive end like a pop-a-shot game is the work on the other end of the floor. As usual, the Wildcats were tenacious defensively, forcing 22 Marquette turnovers. Jay Wright’s group forced 6 turnovers during a 6-minute period of the first half during which they outscored the Golden Eagles 17-0 to take control of the game. The Wildcats have now tied their school record for wins in a season with 30. Nearly everyone would expect them to top that mark today in the semifinals against Providence, a team they defeated by 28 in their last meeting.

La Salle 76, Massachusetts 69 – Box Score

Senior Jerrell Wright can thank a couple of newcomers for extending his collegiate career. After Wright picked up 2 quick fouls around 6 minutes into the game, and a third later in the first half, he was limited to just 21 minutes of action. It was up to the Explorers’ two transfers to carry the day offensively and they stepped up to the challenge. Jordan Price, who has been the go-to-guy on the perimeter all season for La Salle, was crucial once again, scoring a game-high 28 points thanks to a 14-18 day from the foul line. Fellow transfer Cleon Roberts added 16 points off the bench, his first game in double figures in nearly a month.

Still, it was an unexpected player stepping up to hit the biggest shot of the game for La Salle. After UMass had cut the lead to 1 inside of 2 minutes, Khalid Lewis (averaging just 6.0 points per game on the season) drained a corner three to stretch the lead to 2 possessions and help ice the victory. Also, with his fellow senior big man out half the game, Steve Zack was huge down low, playing 39 minutes and recording 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks. The Explorers will need this kind of balanced effort across the roster when they take on #1 seed Davidson in today’s A-10 quarterfinals.

St. Bonaventure 60, Saint Joseph’s 49 – Box Score

All season long, finding guys to score the basketball has been the undoing for the Hawks. So it comes as no surprise that’s how their season would end, as St. Joe’s shot just 25.5% from the field to fall to St. Bonaventure in their A-10 tournament opener. A-10 1st-teamer DeAndre Bembry, the one guy the Hawks can usually count on for a bulk of the offense, was not up to shouldering the load on this day, shooting 3-14 from the field for just 12 points. In his last collegiate game, senior Chris Wilson had a rough outing, finishing scoreless on a 0-6 mark from the field. The one guy to have a good performance on the offensive end was junior Isaiah Miles, who tallied 19 points thanks to a 3-7 effort from three and 8-8 from the foul line.

Even so, the Hawks looked to be on their way to victory most of the game, leading by 5 and still maintaining a sizable lead throughout the early part of the second half. However, there was really only one good stretch of offensive basketball from either side on the game and it belonged to St. Bonaventure. About 4 minutes into the half, the Bonnies went on a 10-0 run to turn a 7-point deficit into a 3-point lead. With the way the Hawks were unable to shoot the ball, they could never mount a return run of their own. We’ll have our season recap for St. Joe’s sometime within the next week.

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