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Ryan Connors |NCAA.com | February 24, 2019

What Xavier's upset of Villanova means for the Big East race

Andy Katz reveals his bracket

Xavier tossed No. 17 Villanova on Sunday by a score of 66-54, handing the Wildcats their third straight loss in front of a raucous crowd at the Cintas Center. It's Villanova's first three-game losing streak since January 2013. For Xavier, this is a big win late in a season that recently saw them go through a six-game losing streak.

Villanova led at halftime Sunday, and seemed to have command of the game until Xavier floored it and zoomed away with a double-digit lead that the defending-champion Wildcats weren't able to counter. The Musketeers outscored the Wildcats 39-24 in the second half.

Whenever Nova loses, the Big East takes notice. This late in the season, an upset like this can have big ramifications.

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For a team that lost by 13, Villanova had control of the game for longer than you'd think

The Wildcats had the lead for 25:49 of game time. Xavier only led for 8:30. That's rare, and goes to show how much control Villanova had — until it didn't. Xaiver didn't take its first lead of the game until there was 10:21 left on the clock in the second half.

That's when Villanova fell ice cold. The Wildcats ended up with a total of 24 points in the second half, as shot after shot came up empty. After shooting a pedestrian 40 percent in the first half, Villanova shot a ghastly 25 percent in the second. While this happened, Xavier got hot. The Musketeers shot 52 percent in the second half, and punctuated the win with dunk after dunk.

 

Four Musketeers finished in double figures Sunday, led by Naji Marshall's 17 points. Seven of Marshall's points came amid a 17-0 second half run that gave Xavier its first lead of the game.

Villanova's loss puts Marquette in the driver's seat in the Big East

Villanova's loss puts the Wildcats 1.5 games behind Marquette in the Big East standings after the Golden Eagles defeated Providence by 21 points on Saturday. Steve Wojciechowski's team defeated Villanova the teams' first head-to-head matchup this season on Feb. 9, so the conference title is theirs to lose.

THE BRACKET: Print the official 2019 March Madness bracket

The No. 11 Golden Eagles are enjoying a superb bounce-back season under Wojciechowski. They haven't been ranked this high in the AP poll since the 2011-2012 season, and are in first place in the conference with a 12-2 Big East record a year after going 10-8.

Villanova's conference record now stands at 11-4 with three regular season games remaining to catch up to Marquette.

Villanova does have an immediate chance to help its cause, though. The Wildcats host Marquette on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, FS1) in a game that would be pivotal for the Wildcats to keep their hopes at earning the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament.

Villanova also hosts Butler and travels to Seton Hall to close out its regular season. Marquette still has Creighton, Seton Hall and Georgetown on its schedule beyond Wednesday's showdown. 

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