Ethan Wragge made a three. Then he made another. Then he made another.
Then Ethan Wragge made another three. Then he made one more. And then he made one more. Then Ethan Wragge decided he’d try hitting a three-pointer. He made it.
On the backs of Wragge and McDermott, the Creighton Bluejays toppled the No. 4 Villanova Wildcats tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. Wragge finished with 27 points on 9-14 shooting, and McDermott tallied 23 on 8-13 shooting. Austin Chatman recorded 9 assists.
Villanova was led by James Bell with 19 points, and JayVaughn Pinkston contributed 11 points and 5 rebounds.
In the Wildcats’ first showing at WFC since the exhibition game, they came out flatter than flat, and only time will tell to see how far the ’Cats will fall in the rankings. This was an outstanding and hot-shooting Creighton team that certainly deserved to be ranked.
After the Wildcats finished the first half on a decent run to make the game close, Creighton created some space at the start of the second half. Shooting percentages plummeted as the Bluejays missed multiple threes, but worked the ball inside to McDermott for a few possessions in a row. It was a much better defensive strategy than leaving men open outside, but at times it was clear that Arch was just too small to handle Dougie down low. Certainly not for lack of trying.
Creighton hit four straight 3-pointers to open up their largest lead of the night at 77-47 with 11:33 remaining. Then the Bluejays scored again. Then Doug McDermott hit a contested three. Then Ochefu missed a block on a fastbreak layup. In a minutes time, Creighton put up seven more points.
James Bell eventually hit from deep to give the Wildcats their first 3-pointer since 2:19 remained in the first half.
Then Creighton hit another 3, in the process setting a record for threes in a Big East game with 21. And then somehow the Bluejays managed to rub it in even more when Will Artino threw down an emphatic dunk with 6:33 left to give Creighton a 90-50 lead. Zach Hanson added another dunk a minute later.
Lost in the shuffle of Creighton’s historic night was the seemingly stagnant offense for the Wildcats. From the 16:58 mark in the second half until 3:03 remaining, Villanova scored just three points from someone other than James Bell. Bell had 11 in that span.
The Bluejays jumped/raced/exploded/cyborged to a 21-5 lead after just five minutes of play. Wragge made 7 threes in the first 7 minutes (all on three-pointers), and Creighton led 35-16 under-12 media TO. But it was 27-8 before the second media timeout. DePaul only scored 24 points against Villanova in the entire first half. Obviously the defense was to blame, but how so?
Villanova always likes to play with an extremely willing help defense. Sometimes it comes back to bite them. Against a team with as many three-point shooters as Creighton, it almost made sense to scrap the help defense. But they didn’t. And the Bluejays kept shooting.
With 7:17 remaining, Isaiah Zierden made a three to put Creighton up 47-19. It was the team’s 13th 3-pointer in 19 attempts. But at that point, the game made an eerily similar turn towards the Villanova-Syracuse game in December. Villanova went on a 13-0 run to cut the gap a bit and kept clawing.
Threes from Arch, Bell, and Hilliard helped to bring the lead down to 54-41 when the clock eventually expired in the first half. Villanova shot 13-32 for 40.6% and 6-17 (35.3%) from deep in 20 minutes while Creighton was shooting an incomprehensible 64% from behind the arc at 14-22.
Villanova entered the game having won all three of its career matchups against Creighton, all from long before Jay Wright took over at Villanova.