The Creighton Bluejays were able to hang on late and win their sixth straight game, 66-61, over the Villanova Wildcats. The Bluejays are now 15-8 overall and 9-3 in the Big East, good for a tie of third place.
With the loss, the Wildcats drop to a disappointing 10-13 overall and 4-8 in the Big East - all four wins were against St. John’s and Georgetown, who are two of the four teams below the Wildcats in the standings.
The Wildcats had a late 15-3 run to erase a 10-point deficit. The ‘Cats even broke through and had the lead with 34 seconds left in the game, before Creighton answered back with a pair of free throws. Similar to most games this season, Villanova put up a good fight but it was just not enough. The Wildcats, once again, went silent late and had only one made shot in the last 5:54 of the game.
After two late timeouts, the Wildcats had two chances to draw up a play to either tie the game or take the lead. The first possession resulted in Caleb Daniels driving to his off-hand and turning the ball over. The second possession resulted in an off-balance Eric Dixon three-point attempt running around a screen. It seemed like the plays were executed as they were drawn up, they were just not great plays.
Throughout most of the game, the Bluejays had the lead and control showing why they were chosen as unanimous preseason Big East favorites. The Bluejays are now 15-5 with Kalbrenner in the lineup and 0-3 without. Kalkbrenner had a massive impact on both ends of the floor with a four-inch height advantage over any ‘Nova defender. The Wildcats had a tough time scoring around the rim while Kalkbrenner feasted in the paint and on the offensive glass. Kalkbrenner finished with 16 points and five rebounds with four of them coming on the offensive glass.
In addition to Kalkbrenner, Creighton guards Trey Alexander and Ryan Nembhard played a huge role directing the offense, combining for seven assists. As Gus Johnson said, Alexander was “the straw that stirred the drink” adding a team-high 27 points converting five threes while Nembhard dropped 10 points.
Lockdown defender Arthur Kaluma had a rough shooting night finishing 1-of-8 but he still managed to score eight points and grab eight rebounds.
Villanova bodies were on the floor numerous times in the first half but not in typical Villanova fashion hustling for loose balls. There were a bunch of times a Villanova ball handler stumbled to the ground and turned the ball over.
Too many times this season, Eric Dixon is given the ball on the three-point line with nothing to do. Cam Whitmore is an extremely talented freshman, but he was also proven to be a liability with the ball on the perimeter.
Whitmore took a few questionable step-back threes tonight. One of the most glaring step-back threes came when Whitmore got Kalkbrenner to bite for a pump-fake which left a wide open lane to the rim with a chance to put Baylor Scheierman on a poster. Whitmore finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
The offense ran well through Eric Dixon as he finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. Every possession Dixon touched the ball in the paint, it felt like good things happened, but unfortunately the final shot to salvage the game fell short.
Justin Moore had his most impactful game since returning from injury finishing with 13 points and converting three triples. Graduate Senior Caleb Daniels added a quiet 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Wildcats next chance to pick up a win comes Wednesday night as they welcome the DePaul Blue Demons to town. DePaul defeated Villanova in Chicago 75-65, so the Wildcats will be looking for revenge.