After going down more than 10 points multiple times during the ‘Cats’ trip to Omaha, Villanova was able to pull out a tough road win against a strong Blue Jays squad. Lead by a 24 point performance by Gillespie and 14 rebound game by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, the team showed grit and determination to pull out the win, despite an awful shooting night going 37.7% from the field and 18% from 3.
The Wildcats are off until Saturday when they take on Georgetown at the Wells Fargo Center for a noon time tip-off
The Creighton Blue Jays are always a well-coached and difficult Big East matchup, especially in Omaha where the fans always represent. They were looking to attack a Villanova team coming off a big loss to a strong Marquette team, which knocked them out of the top 10. The ‘Cats, on the other hand, want nothing more than to head back to campus with their first Big East road win before the next semester begins.
Jay opened the game with a starting lineup of Gillespie, Swider, Samuels, JRE, and Bey while Creighton head coach Greg McDermott went with the very small starting lineup of Alexander, Zegarowski, Ballock, Bishop, and Jefferson. Villanova started out cold shooting, missing their first 3 shots, but looked like their size was working well to get them a lot of offensive rebounds. The Wildcats continued to struggle for the first few minutes offensively as Bey lost the ball while pressured at midcourt and JRE got bottled up inside. Even at the first media timeout Nova was still looking for their first non-free-throw bucket of the night.
Coming out of the under 16 timeout, the ‘Cats still struggled to move the ball offensively, but the defense kept the Blue Jays in check only allowing 37% shooting from the floor. After Justin Moore checked in, the offense seemed to flow a little more with back to back made shots coming off clean looks. The two teams traded strong buckets, Villanova with a backdoor slam from Bey and Creighton with a layup by Ballock that come from a questionable no-call-potential-charge.
Coming out of the second media timeout, it looks like Creighton made an adjustment to shrink the floor a bit on defense due to Villanova not shooting well. Nova fed right into this by passing up on 2 straight open looks to shot fake and drive. Creighton continued to attack inside with 75% of their shots coming from inside the arc, and were finding success as they went on a 9-0 run for about 4 straight minutes. With just under 8 to play, the ‘Cats found themselves down 20-10 with not much offense in sight.
The Wildcats continued to struggle offensively only now the Blue Jays seemed to find their rhythm offensively, mainly due to Jay’s decision to double off screens, allowing the center to slip to the basket for an easy layup. Nova went cold after that going 0-4 while bricking many threes in the process. At long last Bey hit from downtown to cut the lead to 10. After a late half push lead by Samuels and Bey, The wildcats found themselves down 8 going into the locker room.
Coming out into the second half the ‘Cats came out firing on all cylinders. A quick couple of buckets by JRE and Samuels found Villanova in a 4 point game after only 90 seconds gone in the second half. Just as things were getting heated up, a bad shot by Gillespie and a charge benching Swider with 4 fouls, the Wildcats were finding themselves in a six point hole again with momentum going in the Blue Jays’ favor. After Gillespie and Zegarowski traded coast to coast buckets, Villanova called a timeout to try and settle things down.
After JRE sunk 2 free throws, the ‘Cats were still very much in this game trailing 41-35. Though Creighton was still difficult to stop offensively, it never seemed like it was anything that Nova couldn’t handle. Villanova’s problem was that they were shooting 31% for the game and needed to find a way to knock down shots.
More Creighton offense and Villanova lacking any allowed the lead to balloon to 10 with 11 minutes to go, but Bey’s and-one brought the game to a 47-40 scoreline. Some great back and forth lead to a Samuels put back off a Gillespie missed 3 that looked like his arms were outfitted by inspector gadget, cutting the lead to 54-50.
Some nice post work by JRE cut the lead to a one possession ball game. A missed open layup by Creighton and a check-the-wind-I’m-so-wide-open 3 silenced the Blue Jays’ supporters, only to have them roar at a 3 by Ballock, and then silenced again by Bey’s 3-pointer. The Blue Jays called a timeout after a Gillespie bucket gave Nova a 60-57 lead with 2 to go.
With time expiring, Nova had to chuck up a 3 and missed. Creighton looked to grab a 3 themselves but missed while Gillespie got the rebound. After burning some clock, The ‘Cats fired up another 3 and missed, but got the rebound this time and forced Creighton to foul. Unlucky for them, Nova was 2 fouls from the bonus, so they burned the clock to 8.5 seconds and Gillespie went to the line. After the free throws the Blue Jays were looking to cut into a 5 point deficit. This came to no avail as the Wildcats survived and brought home the win
Overall, a win is a win. Rather win ugly than lose pretty. However, this continues a very cold streak for the Wildcats shooting, especially away from home. It’s very comforting that their defense was so strong that they could win despite such a poor shooting performance, but against stronger opponents that will not be enough. They seem to be generating many open looks and getting to the right spots offensively, but sloppy turnovers and a whole team not shooting well at this point in the season is not something you’d expect from such a strong program. Hopefully this home stretch that is coming up will allow the team to get settled.