The Bluejays fell 70-62 Wednesday night at No. 10 Villanova after digging themselves in a deep first-half hole.
The game was a deciding factor in the Big East standings, and the win earned the Wildcats the conference championship.
Shooting only 29% compared to Villanova’s 54.5% in the first half, the Jays found themselves down 42-23 at halftime.
After a 17-0 run in the second half, the Bluejays cut the deficit to as little as five, powered behind senior forward Damien Jefferson and senior guard Mitch Ballock, who each put up 11 in the final 20 minutes.
“Talking to those guys I was just telling them that’s not the way we gonna finish. We’re not gonna finish on their court just getting embarrassed,” Jefferson said. “I feel like some guys took pride in that and they did what they had to do.”
Despite the surge, they never regained enough momentum over the Wildcats, who were led by Justin Moore with 24 points.
“We fought back in the game the best way we could, but they’re still a good team and they finished strong,” Jefferson said.
It was their second straight loss, following a 77-69 defeat at Xavier on Saturday.
“We just didn’t quite have it on both ends tonight and I don’t think we were that far away,” coach Greg McDermott said following Saturday’s game.
Xavier’s Paul Scruggs and Zach Freemantle combined for 40 as the Musekteers shot 54% from the floor compared to the Jays’ 43%.
Despite narrowing within three in the final minutes, the Jays couldn’t close the gap.
“It’s hard trying to find some juice when the team’s already got it going. We gotta watch what happened on film and try to fix it,” Jefferson said.
He led with 19 points followed by junior guard Marcus Zegarowski who added 15.
The Jays face Butler Saturday before the Big East tournament next weekend.