NEW YORK – The last act of Collin Gillespie’s fabled Big East basketball career, the point guard took a basketball and threw it practically as high as the Madison Square Garden scoreboard, straight up above it all, an act of pure celebration, before Gillespie was mobbed by Villanova teammates.

It wasn’t his night, until Gillespie decided it was. This was no classic, any part of this 2022 Big East championship game, with all the shooters, tired or not, both Big East finalists, Villanova and Creighton shooting exactly like it was their third game in three days.

Even after the 54-48 final score is forgotten, this will live on from the final minutes: A pass by Gillespie, a return pass to him ... swish, only his second three-point swish of the night. Next possession, Gillespie up top again, off the dribble ... swish. Villanova, down a point, suddenly up five. Gillespie, Gillespie. A 17-point night didn’t tell the story. Eight points in the last three minutes kind of did.

“Whatever you call it, I call it, no fear of failure,” Jay Wright said of Gillespie’s clutch qualities, how Wright still is surprised by it, adding that he shouldn’t be. “It’s a unique mindset, and that’s what the great ones have.”

Gillespie, noting that he was tired, was good with Justin Moore taking the ball to start those plays. It all worked. Moore joined Gillespie on the all-tournament team. Gillespie, the two-time Big East player of the year, 2021 and 2022, was named 2022 Big East tournament MVP.

Right afterward, Gillespie, his Big East championship hat on backwards, looked down and shook his head. Wait for the TV trophy presentation to come back from commercial, he pulled his championship T-shirt over his head and wiped at his face.

Fellow fifth-year player Jermaine Samuels, his arm around Gillespie, said something to him. Gillespie shook his head again.

When Jay Wright was asked by Gus Johnson what Gillespie meant to him, the arena roared at the question, not waiting for the answer. Johnson noted that Gillespie was the 2022 Big East tournament MVP.

Wright noted of the Garden atmosphere, “You go to the first round of the NCAA tournament – it’s not like this. This is a big jolt.”

He added his guys would need to come down from this.

“It’s a thrill in your lifetime to be part of this,” Wright said. “It’s an out of body experience.”

“If you told me this five years ago I would question you,” Gillespie said of being named Big East player of the year, tournament outstanding player and Big East scholarship-athlete of the year. “But I worked hard.”

Villanova (26-7) won its sixth Big East title of the Jay Wright era, was in its sixth Big East title game since 2014 – sixth in seven tournaments since there was no 2020 Big East tournament – while Creighton (22-11) was trying to break through after reaching the finals in 2014, 2017 and 2021. The Bluejays had put the worst loss in tournament history on a No. 1 seed when it beat Providence by 27 points in the semifinals.

Another pivotal play

Gillespie, driving into the lane, his team down a basket, finding Caleb Daniels in front of Villanova’s bench, just over 4 minutes left. Daniels drained a three-pointer to take the lead back.

Creighton took the lead right back on a tip-in at the other end. All it did was set Gillespie up for his heroics.

How did it get to 19-18 at halftime?

Creighton got to the 18 by missing all 13 three-pointers the Bluejays tried. Villanova did it by making just 2 of 13 shots, with Samuels getting in quick foul trouble. The star of Friday’s semifinal picked up two fouls in just over 5 minutes, went to the bench until halftime. Gillespie didn’t have it going, missing all four first-half shots he tried.