Villanova began its seven-game winning streak early last month by putting its defensive emphasis on Creighton’s ability to hit the three-point shot, limiting the Bluejays to 3-of-14 shooting from deep in a road victory at Omaha.
But the eighth-ranked Wildcats saw that streak snapped Saturday when Creighton found the range from the arc early and often. The visitors knocked down 11 threes in 22 attempts to propel them to a 76-61 victory over the Cats before 15,105 at Wells Fargo Center.
Villanova (17-4, 7-2 Big East) appeared to be just a step slow the entire afternoon, falling behind by 17 late in the first half, cutting the gap to three midway through the second, then making just four of its final 16 shots. The Bluejays (17-5, 6-3) shot 50.9% from the field, the fourth opponent this season to hit more than half of its shots against the Cats.
The Wildcats made just six of their first 23 shots to trail 31-14 with 3 minutes, 11 seconds left in the opening half. It was 35-23 at halftime and Villanova outscored Creighton, 20-11, in the opening 8 minutes of the second half to get to within three, 43-40, on Justin Moore’s three-pointer.
Villanova got to within three again at 51-48 on Collin Gillespie’s layup, but Creighton again had an answer with a 12-2 run spared by seven points from Denzel Mahoney, including a layup that put the visitors up 63-50 with 6:05 remaining.
The Wildcats got to within six, but a three-pointer by Mitch Ballock from the deepest left corner on an in-bounds play with 3:26 left helped seal the win for the visitors.
Gillespie and Moore each scored 18 points to lead Villanova. Gillespie sparked his team’s comeback bid early in the second half with nine points but made just one of his last seven shots.
Saddiq Bey, the Wildcats’ leading scorer with a 15.3-point average, shot just 4-for-13 from the floor and 1-for-5 from three, scoring nine points. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, another reliable scorer, pulled down 10 rebounds but did not make a basket in seven attempts.
Mahoney led the Bluejays with 21 points. Two of Creighton’s trio of three-point marksmen had outstanding games – Ballock (15 points) hitting 5-of-7, and Ty-Shon Alexander (16 points) going 4-of-6.
Villanova coach Jay Wright: “I’ve been saying this all year – every game in this league is going to be a battle and if you don’t play your best, you’re going to get beat. We weren’t that bad. They just really played well. I’ve said this when we’ve won some games, we’re still a team that’s learning and growing, and they just played a better all-around basketball game than us. I’m not happy with the way we played but I’ve got to give them more credit than I’m disappointed in us.”
Creighton coach Greg McDermott: “We made a few (threes) in transition and a couple of set plays. We ran some of those same plays in Omaha and we missed the shots. Those plays look a little better when the shots go in. I thought the threes that we took, our legs were underneath us and they were good shots. Like Villanova, we’ve got a stable of pretty good shooters.”
The loss broke Villanova’s streak of 16 straight wins in Big East home games dating back to Feb. 7, 2018 when the Cats lost to St. John’s at Wells Fargo Center. Since the conference reconfigured to a 10-team league at the start of the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats are 54-5 at home in the Big East, with Creighton the only team that has beaten them twice, both times in South Philadelphia.
Creighton likes to get out and run and did so with success Saturday, scoring 17 fast-break points, nine coming on three three-pointers in the first half when the Wildcats had trouble matching up. McDermott said he felt the transition game neutralized the Wildcats’ 15-3 advantage in second-chance points.