No. 25 Villanova rallies past Xavier in OT in Big East semis

NEW YORK (AP) — Phil Booth scored 28 points, Jermaine Samuels hit a trio of critical 3-pointers and No. 25 Villanova rallied past Xavier 71-67 in overtime Friday night to reach its fifth consecutive Big East championship game.

The top-seeded Wildcats, trying to become the first school in the 40-year history of the Big East to win three straight tournament titles, will play second-seeded Marquette or third-seeded Seton Hall on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

In a scintillating opener to the semifinal doubleheader, Villanova (24-9) erased a seven-point deficit in the last 3 minutes of regulation. Booth and fellow senior star Eric Paschall each scored five points in the extra period as the defending national champions held off a determined Xavier squad.

Paul Scruggs scored a career-high 28 points and Zach Hankins added 18 on 8-of-10 shooting for the fourth-seeded Musketeers (18-15), who had won seven of eight. Scruggs, a sophomore guard, also had 11 rebounds and seven assists, carrying Xavier all night with an outstanding performance.

Musketeers leading scorer Naji Marshall was limited to a season-low two points on 1-of-12 shooting, including 0 for 7 from 3-point range. He fouled out early in overtime after playing nearly 40 minutes.

Xavier has reached the semifinals in all six seasons since joining the Big East, but its only appearance in the championship game was a loss to Villanova in 2015.

Samuels finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Villanova. Paschall scored 12, including the 3-pointer that put the Wildcats ahead to stay early in overtime.

Booth was one point shy of his career high set against Kansas on Dec. 15.

After trailing by 10 late in the first half, the Wildcats were still down seven with 3 minutes left when they finally made their move.

Samuels sank a pair of 3s, including one that caromed high off the front rim, the backboard and through to trim the deficit to 57-56 with 48.9 seconds remaining.

Hankins hit one of two free throws at the other end, and Paschall tipped in a miss by Booth to tie it at 58 with 7.6 seconds to go.

Marshall was called for a charge as he tried to win it with a floater, but he intercepted Villanova's inbounds pass at halfcourt with 1.6 seconds left and missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, sending this one to overtime.

Scruggs, who came in averaging 12.1 points per game, scored 15 in the first half. He made all five shots from the field, banking in a fortuitous 3-pointer from the left corner high off the glass, to help Xavier build a 34-28 lead at the break.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: Despite a late push, it appears the Musketeers will miss the NCAA Tournament after making five consecutive appearances and 12 in the past 13 years. They were a No. 1 seed last year, but got off to a slow start this season under first-year coach Travis Steele and couldn't overcome a six-game losing streak in the middle of the Big East regular season.

Villanova: Improved to 13-2 in the Big East Tournament since the 2013-14 realignment. The Wildcats are in the championship game for the 10th time, tying Connecticut for third-most behind Syracuse (15) and Georgetown (13). Syracuse (1986-90) is the only other school to make it in five straight years.

UP NEXT

Xavier: Will hope for postseason bid Sunday, perhaps to the NIT.

Villanova: Split two regular-season meetings with Marquette in February, with each school winning at home. Also split with Seton Hall, losing 79-75 on the road in the regular-season finale last Saturday.

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