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Villanova falls to sharp-shooting Creighton team, 86-70

Creighton’s hot hand and run and gun offense bested the ‘Cats tonight

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s top 25-ranked Big East matchup between the Villanova Wildcats and Creighton Bluejays lived up to the hype, but it didn’t go Villanova’s way. The ‘Cats were outshot by the Bluejays and went on to lose 86-70. It looked as if no one could have beat the Bluejays today with the shooting performance they had.

Villanova’s defense was no match for Creighton’s excellent shooting all over the floor. The ‘Cats struggled to find a rhythm when shots were not falling.

Creighton controlled the tempo throughout the second half causing a desperate Villanova to speed up, unlike its usual play. Coach Jay Wright liken this tempo change to the struggles the ‘Cats faced in the St. John’s loss.

“Creighton was just outstanding,” Wright said. “Defensively, they played extremely well. Their energy level is outstanding and then, offensively, they got going in the second half. They’re as dangerous as anybody in the country.”

He also noted that “their speed and their movement offensively was really difficult for us to guard.”

Creighton posted an impressive 59% overall and 12-of-26 (46.2%) from deep. Villanova wasn’t as fortunate, shooting just 37.5% on the floor and just 31.3% from the three-point line.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

For Creighton, Marcus Zegarowski had a team-high 25 points. Mitch Ballock chipped in 20 points after a quiet first half, while Christian Bishop and Damien Jefferson had contributed double-doubles with 16 and 10 points, respectively, and 10 rebounds each.

Villanova and Creighton battled in a game of runs for the first half until the Blue Jays shot the lights out in the second half.

Villanova only trailed, 42-36, at the break.

For the first half, the ‘Cats seemed to hang around even with shots not falling. Villanova crashed the boards hard showing an impressive nine first half offensive rebounds and scored 17 points off second chance possessions. This allowed the ‘Cats to avoid Creighton’s quick transition to offense.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

While it did seem like the Blue Jays were raining threes at one point, Creighton posted 36 points in the paint. Needing protection around the rim, Jay Wright and the ‘Cats fell back into a zone defense hoping to slow the Bluejays inside.

Zegarowski led Creighton with 17 first half points to their six-point lead, but Ballock with 17 in the second half expanded the Creighton lead to as much as 21 at one point.

“Zegarowski got open shots and got in front of the rim while getting his teammates involved,” senior guard Collin Gillespie said.

He also noted that Zegarowski was a great player ,who did a little bit of everything on the court tonight.

For the Wildcats, Justin Moore led Villanova with 21 points. Jermaine Samuels added a solid 16 points in the loss. Brandon Slater posted 11 points while going 4-4 from the free throw line. Gillespie and Robinson-Earl were held each to eight points.

After this loss, Villanova now has a week off to regroup and recover. Gillespie noted that with this time off, the team will “practice and go hard with a goal of getting better.”

Hoping to learn from this game, Gillespie emphasized the importance of improving on the little things and the captains getting back to work.

The Villanova Wildcats will be back Saturday, February 20th against UConn. The game will be played on FOX at 1pm.