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Villanova rallies and stuns No. 12 Creighton in overtime

Villanova defeats 12th-ranked Creighton to spoil Doug McDermott’s jersey retirement.

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

It might’ve been Doug McDermott’s jersey retirement game, but the night belonged to Villanova, who emerged victorious in overtime on the road.

The Wildcats came from behind to knock off the 12th-ranked Creighton Bluejays, trailing by as much as 14 points in the second half. The Bluejays fall to 9-3 while the Wildcats improve to 8-4, with the 68-66 win.

After a very slow start from the field, the Wildcats were a completely different team in the second half and overtime. The Wildcats shot 28.1% from the field and 1-10 (10%) from three in the first half and 55.6% and 4-9 (44.4%) in the second half.

“Our guys just made the reads,” Kyle Neptune said, when asked what changed from the first half to the second half. “Most of our sets are reads for our guys and they just made the reads they made. Luckily ended up making some plays going towards the rim. I thought we shared the ball better in the second half.”

The ‘Cats were led by none other than Eric Dixon. Dixon seems to love playing against the Bluejays and two-time Big East Defensive player of the year, Ryan Kalkbrenner, averaging 25.7 points against the Bluejays over the last two seasons.

The Wildcats’ big man topped off his big-time performance with a big-time shot, drilling the go-ahead game-winning three with less than 29 seconds left in overtime off an out of bounds play.

“That was the play,” Dixon said postgame. “I think we’ve gotten a lot of offense out of that play, my coaches trusted me.”

The huge three by Dixon came off a set where Dixon called his own number.

“We have a lot of reads out of that play,” Neptune explained postgame. “[Dixon] made his decision and ended up making the shot.”

Dixon finished with 32 points, six rebounds and four three-pointers. Hakim Hart was the only other Wildcat in double-digits finishing with 10 points and coming up with a key steal in overtime.

“We all know Eric Dixon is a great scorer, he gets 32 tonight, that’s big time,” Neptune praised Dixon for his efforts tonight. “But defensively, to go out there and be the anchor of our defense and play the bulk of the game, 37 minutes, I thought he was unbelievable on ball-screen coverages, unbelievable in the post, he rebounded, he did a little bit of everything. Scoring as much as he scored, I thought the other stuff was just as important.”

Dixon did not feel any added pressure on him to score tonight with Justin Moore out.

“There’s never pressure to score on this team,” Dixon said. “No matter if I have 18 [while no one else has more than one FG] or whatever the case may be. We have guys that can beat anybody any night. There are so many talented guys, it just had be me tonight. I think we all take comfort in knowing that we don’t have to go out and score to be effective. It just happened to be my day.”

After Dixon’s big shot, ‘Nova held firm, but not without a couple of scares in the final moments.

Villanova got a stop, which prompted Creighton to quickly foul in an attempt to salvage the game.

Tyler Burton had a quiet night offensively and missed two huge front ends in overtime that could have iced the game in the closing moments of overtime, but Burton made his presence felt on the glass finishing with a team-high 12 rebounds.

After Burton’s empty trip to the free-throw line, Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman also missed the front end of a one-and-one. Burton would be fouled and sent back to the line, where he would miss a second front end.

Scheierman also got a second-chance, pulling up from deep in an attempt to snatch the game, but it was no good.

The Bluejays were led by the usual suspects: Ryan Kalkbrenner, Baylor Scheierman and Trey Alexander. The combo guard, Alexander, finished with 16 points and a whopping 15 rebounds. It took some time for Alexander to get going, but he ended up scoring all eight of Creighton’s points in overtime.

Kalkbrenner chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds for the ‘Jays but it wasn’t enough. Scheierman finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while shooting 0-7 from three.

“I thought that was the key,” Kyle Neptune said of Villanova’s perimeter defense. “That was something we talked about coming in. They’re a great team, they’re great offensively, we just wanted to try to stay in front of them as much as we can, I thought our guys did a great job.”

The Wildcats clawed back into the game with a 9-0 run midway through the second half to trim the deficit down to two. They limited the Bluejays to just two made shots over the final 10 minutes of regulation, as they staged their comeback.

Mark Armstrong sank a layup with 2:16 left in regulation to tie it up at 58 a piece. Somehow, neither team scored and the game went into overtime, where it was a back-and-forth battle until Dixon settled it.

With the win, the Wildcats pick up their third Quad 1 win of the year and prove that no matter how many Philly teams beat them, they can hang with anyone in the country. Next up for the Wildcats is a trip to Chicago on Saturday where they take on the DePaul Blue Demons.

What a win.