The Villanova Wildcats’ chances at a 5th consecutive Big East Title took a hit Saturday as they dropped an overtime thriller to the Creighton Bluejays 83-89. Jalen Brunson led the way for ‘Casts with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, but it wasn’t enough to take down the Bluejays at home.
It was a tough back and forth game all day, with neither team being able to hold onto a lead. Villanova gave up a 9 point lead late in the second half, but then came back to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the extra period, the Wildcats simply couldn’t keep up with Creighton’s hot hand, and weren’t able to extend the game with fouls in the loss.
While five players finished in double figures for Villanova, the team had trouble scoring for stretches of the second half and overtime. Omari Spellman finished with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Mikal Bridges added 18 points on 50% shooting from the floor. The defensive effort was there for the Wildcats, finishing +2 on the boards and in turnovers, but Creighton was till able to edge them out in the OT.
The first half seemed like it would be a three point contest with both teams combining for 15 first half threes, each shooting over 43% from deep. Villanova’s slight edge seemed to come from their 21-15 rebounding advantage, including a +3 edge on the offensive glass. However, it was Creighton who was leading the turnover battle, including a +2 advantage in steals. Offensively the Cats had six players with 5+ points (including a three for each player), while Khyri Thomas led the Bluejays with 15 points, all from deep.
In the second half, the teams went back and forth until Nova finally seemed to take control. They had an 8 point lead with under 5 minutes to play, but Creighton quickly cut that lead to one possession. The Wildcats would actually have to come back just to send the game to overtime. But once the OT began, Nova’s defense simply didn’t have an answer for Creighton’s ability to drive the paint.
Just 24 hours after the college basketball world was turned into a frenzied “who-done-it” with names and details of the FBI investigation being released, Villanova was back on the court in search of another Big East title. In order to make that a reality, the Wildcats would have to win on the road to claim a share of first place in the league with Xavier.
With Phil Booth still working his way back to full playing time, Donte DiVincenzo once again got the start for the Wildcats. He helped Nova get off to an early start, driving and kicking out to Eric Paschall for a three on the game’s first possession. Creighton answered with a three of their own, but it quickly became obvious that the Bluejays were going to have trouble with the ability of Villanova’s bigs to stretch the court as Omari Spellman hit a three to give Nova the lead once more.
The teams continued to trade early baskets, finding success in attacking the paint and either finishing at the rim or kicking out to open shooters. Khyri Thomas hit his second three of the day to give Creighton its first lead of the day. But Mikal Bridges answered immediately by hitting a three and getting fouled for a four point play.
This was quickly becoming a three point contest as the teams continued to trade three pointers, with Mitch Ballock, Jalen Brunson, and Khyri Thomas all connecting from deep on consecutive possessions. Mikal Bridges finally broke the streak with a miss from three and Omari Spellman was called for an over the back foul. The game went into the first TV timeout with 15:41 left in the half and the teams tied 15-15.
Out of the timeout, Phil Booth got into the game, his second since missing 7 games with a fractured hand. He immediately made his presence known, making a nice cut to the basket and finishing at the rim. Marcus Foster, an elite presence in his own right, answered with a drive to the rim to even things up again. Then after a block on Booth’s shot, Khyri Thomas hit his 4th three pointer of the game to give Creighton it’s largest lead of the game at three. But Donte DiVincenzo had the immediate answer with a three of his own, and the game was again tied with just under 13 minutes to play.
Jalen Brunson got his man down in the post and finished on a contested fade away to give Villanova the lead again, showing why many think he should be the player of the year in college basketball. After a miss on the other end for Creighton, Brunson attacked the basket again, this time drawing a foul. With 11:21 remaining in the half and both teams shooting over 50% from the field and 55% from deep, Villanova led 22-20.
Out of the timeout, Omari Spellman was able to work the post after grabbing an offensive rebound and give the Wildcats a four point lead. Marcus Foster came right back with his another drive to the lane to cut the lead to 2, and then after another Nova miss Khyri Thomas hit a three in transition, now 5 of 5 from deep, to take the lead back with under 10 to play in the first half.
It continued to be an offensive showcase as Mikal Bridges hit a three, giving both teams six threes in the first half and Villanova a two point lead. Both teams finally started to cool off a little, trading empty possessions until Eric Paschall was able to drive the lane for a quick two. But again Creighton had an answer as Mitch Ballock drove the lane and made the basket while earning a trip to the charity stripe. With a free throw looming, Villanova still led 29-27 with 6:48 remaining in the first.
Creighton hit the free throw, making it a one point lead. Villanova then committed a turnover and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree picked up a foolish foul trying to dive for the ball. On the ensuing possession, Marcus Foster hit a three to get the lead back, and then another Wildcat turnover led to an easy bucket for the Bluejays, stretching their lead out to four.
After trading a few mistake filled possessions on both sides, Omari Spellman ended Nova’s drought with an offensive rebound and put back to make it a one possession game. Creighton was called for a walk, and Collin Gillespie was able to take advantage by driving to the lane and earning a trip to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game. Creighton still led 31-33 with 3:45 remaining in the half.
The Villanova freshman went just 1 of 2 from the line, leaving the Bluejays with a one point lead. But after a Creighton miss, the Wildcats would have another chance to retake the lead. Jalen Brunson was up to the task, using an acrobatic move to drive the lane and complete an old fashioned three point play. Creighton had another miss, but Omari Spellman seemed to take an unintentional hand to the face during the rebound. Villanova was able to extend their lead on a Phil Booth three to extend a 9-0 run and giving the Wildcats their largest lead of the day, 38-33.
Spellman would go to the bench, but looked fine after talking to the training staff. Back on the court, Marcus Foster finally ended Nova’s run with a dunk, Creighton’s first basket in over four minutes. Eric Paschall answered with a drive and a dunk of his own. After a missed Jalen Brunson three, Marcus Foster hit a step back three with time expiring to send Villanova to the locker room with a one possession lead, 40-38.
Out of the break, Creighton immediately got the ball back to the paint to tie the game at 40-40. But Villanova did the same thing with their big man as Omari Spellman made it a two point game again. After trading turnovers, Donte DiVincenzo was able to hit an open three to tie Villanova’s biggest lead of the day at five. Creighton answered right back with a three of their own, cutting the lead back to two. Jalen Brunson got caught up in some great defense by Creighton and was called for a turnover. Davion Mintz was fouled during a dunk attempt and would head to the line with a chance to tie the game again. Nova still led 45-43 with 16:00 left in the game.
Mintz hit both free throws to tie the game, but Mikal Bridges answered with a three and was fouled for his second four point play of the day. On the other end Eric Paschall picked up his third play of the day, sending him to the bench. Villanova was able to finish out the defensive possession, but they lost track of the shot clock on the other end and were called for a violation. Marcus Foster would answer with a three to cut the Wildcat lead back to just one. After a miss by Nova on the other end, Creighton hit an alley-oop off a pick and roll to take a one point lead with under 14 minutes left in the game.
Jalen Brunson tried to answer from deep, but was unable to connect. Then a lapse in defense resulted in an easy lay-in for Creighton, extending their lead to three. Brunson answered this time by getting fouled on a drive, but he only went 1 of 2 from the line. The Wildcats had another defensive mistake leaving the Bluejays’ center open in the paint, but the lob pass to him was long and went off his fingertips out of bounds. A TV timeout was called with 11:42 remaining in the game and Creighton still leading 50-52.
Jalen Brunson missed a three out of the timeout, and Creighton used the long rebound to get another quick bucket in the paint during transition. On the next possession, Mikal Bridges couldn’t handle a pass in the paint, and ended up committing his third foul of the game. While the Wildcats had cooled off, Creighton hadn’t. Now on an 11-1 run, Creighton had pushed their lead to six.
Villanova finally put an end to that run with an Omari Spellman three from the corner. The teams traded lay-ins at the basket until Donte DiVincenzo hit a transition three to tie the game at 58-58 with just under 9 minutes remaining in the game. After a Phil Booth miss in the corner, Omari Spellman grabbed his 3rd offensive rebound and was fouled on the put back. He hit both free throws to give Villanova a two point lead, but Creighton came right back to tie the game again. Jalen Brunson, who was having trouble from outside, continued to be dangerous in the paint. He hit a fade-away in the lane to reclaim the lead for the ‘Cats at 62-60 with 7:51 left to play.
After Jay Wright challenged his floor general in the huddle to make the right play, Brunson was able to take the ball through the paint and finish to extend Nova’s lead to 4. Villanova played a great defensive possession, forcing a contested three. The Wildcats weren’t able to take advantage on the other end, but they continued to play strong defense and kept the Bluejays from getting close to the basket. Jalen Brunson eventually broke the shooting slump for both teams by connecting on a pull up jumper and pushing the lead to six with over five minutes to play.
Creighton was getting visibly tired and frustrated, now committing some untimely fouls that put Villanova into the bonus. Jalen Brunson continued his one man 8-0 run by hitting two free throws and giving the ‘Cats a 68-60 lead with just 4:30 remaining in the game.
The Bluejays came out of the timeout hitting a seemingly easy lob alley-oop. After a missed Phil Booth three, Marcus Foster was left alone in the corner and connected from deep to make it a one possession game with 3:41 to play. Villanova was forced to call a quick timeout with their lead cut to 68-65.
After a miss on the offensive end by Brunson, Colin Gillespie was able to draw a charge on the defensive end to get the ball back to Villanova. However, they got caught deep in the shot clock and had to jack up a three that was off target. Marcus Foster continued to hit shots for Creighton, this time a pull up jumper, and Nova now led by just one. Mikal Bridges missed a long three of his own, but Gillespie was able to draw another offensive foul on defense to give Nova the ball again with under two minutes to play.
Mitch Ballock was able to draw a foul on Brunson in the paint, sending him to the line where he hit both shots to give Creighton a lead with 1:19 remaining. Jalen Brunson was a man on a mission, driving the lane again and making an off-balance shot while being fouled to give Nova the lead again. He hit the free throw to extend Nova’s lead to two with under a minute left.
But it was Ballock striking again, this time left alone in the corner on a slow rotation, hitting a three to give Creighton a one point lead. Villanova called a timeout with 29.4 seconds left in the game. After a few near turnovers, Mikal Bridges missed a long three and Villanova was forced to foul with 10.4 left. Khyri Thomas missed the front end of a one and one, and Marcus Foster fouled Donte DiVincenzo on the rebound to send Nova to the line down just one.
Donte DiVincenzo missed the first, but made the second to tie the game. On Creighton’s possession, Marcus Foster was isolated on Mikal Bridges for the final shot of regulation. Foster drove the lane but Bridges was able to block the shot out to Gillespie. The freshman chucked the ball up court as time expired, just missing off the front rim in what would have been a 3⁄4 court game winner. The game was tied at 72-72, heading to overtime.
Important to note as extra time started, Eric Paschall and Mikal Bridges both had four fouls. Colin Gillespie got the start over Omari Spellman to start OT, and Creighton won the tip to get the first possession. Khyri Thomas was able to drive to the basket for the first bucket of overtime, but Eric Paschall answered with a long two point jumper.
The teams traded baskets again, and then Creighton as able to take a third OT lead off a rebounding mistake by Nova. Eric Paschall tried for his third bucket of the period, but this time couldn’t finish at the bucket. Creighton now controlled the lead and the ball, taking a timeout with 2:41 left in overtime.
Out of the timeout, Marcus Foster was unable to connect from deep, giving Villanoav a chance to tie or take the lead. DiVincenzo wasn’t able to connect from deep off a hand-off, and then he was called for a rebounding foul on the other end. Jacob Epperson hit both free throws to give Creighton a 4 point lead with 1:45 remaining.
After Brunson was stripped in the lane while driving the basket and initially called Villanova ball, the play was reviewed and determined it went off of Brunson, giving Creighton the ball with 1:27 to play. The Wildcats came out in pressure man defense, forcing Creighton to take a timeout once they were trapped. Again Villanova came out in a man press, and this time were forced to foul Marcus Foster. Eric Paschall picked up his 5th foul on that play, fouling out of the game with 1:22 remaining.
Foster missed one of two, and Brunson was able to get a quick two, but Creighton was able to pull push the ball up court and Booth was forced to foul under the basket to prevent a score. After discussion, the refs called a controversial intentional foul. Khyri Thomas only made one of two from the line, but the Bluejays still got the ball back and scored to make it a six point game with just over one minute to play.
At this point there was a lot of confusion. The clock started to run before anyone touched the ball on the inbounds. Instead of resetting the clock and giving the ball back to the Wildcats under their basket, they kept the four seconds off the clock and gave them the ball on the sideline. They also made Villanova un-sub Mikal Bridges during that stoppage, even though they advanced the ball. Either way, Villanova still wasn’t able to connect on shots down the stretch, and Creighton kept making their shots from the charity stripe. Mikal Bridges finally hit a three with 16.4 seconds remaining, but the Wildcats were still down by six. The Wildcats would eventually lose their fourth game of the season, 83-89.