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Creighton thwarts Villanova’s comeback bid, ‘Cats lose 76-61

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Not this time.

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last time the Villanova Wildcats faced the Creighton Bluejays, they overcame an early double-digit deficit to win down the stretch in Omaha.

Unfortunately for Villanova, that wasn’t going to happen this time around. It looked like the Wildcats would pull off another come-from-behind victory, as they chipped away at Creighton’s lead, until the Bluejays were able to regain control of the game and win 76-61.

After trailing by 12 going into halftime, the Wildcats were able to trim the deficit down early in the second half, with Collin Gillespie leading an early charge after the break.

A series of free throws by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels helped ‘Nova inch closer, until Justin Moore drilled a three-pointer to make it a 46-43 Creighton lead at the 12:08 mark.

That would be the closest the ‘Cats would get to catching the Bluejays.

Shortly afterwards, Creighton would go on a 12-2 run to help push the lead back into double figures. From there, miscues on the offensive and defensive end allowed the Bluejays to continue to build on their lead and runaway with the game.

Villanova finished the game only making one of its final seven shot attempts in the final 4:30 of play, and that came off of a Saddiq Bey layup with 33 seconds remaining.

Slow starts are something that Villanova has dealt with before, but there was no escaping the near wire-to-wire victory for the ‘Cats.

Creighton raced to 21-10 lead in the opening 13 minutes of play, as the ‘Cats struggled to get going early.

Gillespie led all starting Wildcats with 18 points. Moore came off the bench and also supplied 18 points, with an efficient 4-of-5 showing from downtown. Robinson-Earl added six points, all off free throws (0-of-7 shooting), with 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks.

For Creighton, Ty-Shon Alexander and Marcus Zegarowski would not be contained this time around. Despite fizzling out in the second half, Alexander finished with a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double. Zegarowski added 13 points. Mitch Ballock drilled 5-of-7 three-pointers en route to a 15 point performance. Denzel Mahoney contributed a strong bench effort, with a game-high 21 points off 8-of-12 shooting.

With the loss, the Wildcats drop to 17-4 overall and 7-2 in Big East play.

They’ll look to regroup on the road, when they venture into Hinkle Fieldhouse to face the No. 16 Butler Bulldogs on Wednesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.