No. 17 Villanova, No. 24 Baylor meet in Myrtle Beach final

The Associated Press
Villanova forward Jermaine Samuels (23) and forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl react with guard Justin Moore (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State at the Myrtle Beach Invitational in Conway, S.C., Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Villanova forward Jermaine Samuels (23) and forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl react with guard Justin Moore (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State at the Myrtle Beach Invitational in Conway, S.C., Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The No. 17-ranked Villanova Wildcats will be looking to secure a preseason tournament championship for the seventh consecutive year when they battle No. 24 Baylor in the final of the Myrtle Beach Invitational on Sunday.

Villanova ousted Mississippi State 83-76 in the semifinal round on Friday after receiving 22 points and seven rebounds from freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and 18 points from Collin Gillespie.

Baylor defeated Coastal Carolina, 77-65.

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Villanova head coach Jay Wright said that a seventh straight championship would be nice, but he'll also remind his group about its 25-point loss to Ohio State in the second game this season.

"I can tell them all about the past," Wright said. "But you have to go through it. We've been blessed with really good players. Everything for this group is going to be a first. At Ohio State, we didn't handle it well."

Gillespie also added nine assists and looks to be regaining his shooting touch. The junior injured his foot in the offseason and then suffered a broken nose shortly before the season and wore a mask in earlier games.

Gillespie scored 11 of the Wildcats' first 14 points and looked as aggressive as he has been all season.

"I take pride in just trying to be a leader," Gillespie said. "We have to find a way to do the little things to get our guys going. It gives them confidence. We got some stops."

And now they'll have a chance to capture a seventh straight preseason title with freshmen Robinson-Earl, Justin Moore and Bryan Antoine going through the experience for the first time.

"It's so much fun, going out and playing the game we love together," Robinson-Earl said. "We go through our trials and tribulations every day in practice. It means we play for those who came before us. They set the tone."

Baylor will be a stiff test for Villanova, which won the national championship in 2016 and '18.

The Bears (4-1) will be searching for a preseason tournament title for the third consecutive season. For a while, just reaching the championship game was a bit uncertain as they trailed Coastal Carolina 39-37 at halftime and during the early part of the second half.

But MaCio Teague scored 21 points, Davion Mitchell added 15 and Jared Butler had 12 to propel Baylor to a semifinal victory. Butler had led the Bears in scoring in the four previous games. He's averaging 18.8 points per game and has scored in double figures in all five games.

"Jared is always a confident player," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "That's one of his strengths. At the same time, I think his percentages are obviously much higher and I think he knows his shot selection is much better than it was as a freshman. His leadership has also really improved."

Two games, two wins. And now the Bears will have a chance at a preseason title.

"This will help us get ready for later in the year on Saturday and Big Monday games and conference tournaments where you play multiple games in multiple days," Drew said. "Usually tournaments are great because it gives you alone time with your team and helps with that bonding."

--Field Level Media

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