Earlier today, Villanova moved up in the AP Polls to #4, it was the highest ranking the Wildcats had reached since 2010. Now, enter Creighton – unranked and coming off of a loss against Providence from Saturday night. Despite whatever any expert, sportswriter, newspaper, magazine, and myself included may have said about this game, no one did not expect what would unfold at the Wells Fargo Center. It did not matter who you thought was going to win or lose, it was about how it was going to happen. Villanova would lose their first game in conference play, 96-68. Putting aside the wide margin of victory, it was a night of records and noteworthy performances for Creighton. Maybe there was something in the water or some strange alignment of the planets going on tonight. Perhaps Lady Luck was on their side because they did not seem to miss a three pointer. Ethan Wragge hit back to back threes to start off the game. Then Jahenns Manigat chipped in another three pointer, and the score was 9-2. Darrun Hilliard would answer back with a three of his own and bring the Wildcats within four. This would be the closest the Wildcats got to tying up the score against the Bluejays because they were on fire.
They kept going, and going, and going, until finally, Manigat missed a three pointer. At this point in the game, Creighton had just missed their first three point attempt after making nine consecutive three pointers. Nine. The score was 27-10. Wragge made seven of the nine three pointers during this stretch. Villanova did everything they could, getting hands in the faces of whoever took the shot but it did not matter. The threes just kept falling for Creighton. The Bluejays stretched their lead to 27 and the score was 44-17 with 7:46 remaining in the first half. However, like they have many times before, the Wildcats began to fight back. They began to pound and drive the ball inside on offense, where Dylan Ennis and JayVaughn Pinkston worked to chip away at the deficit with trips to the foul line or made baskets. It resulted in opening the floor up in the perimeter, where Creighton had done a fine job defending until Villanova put up their own streak of three pointers. Nova Nation was back into it and the Wildcats found a rhythm as Ryan Arcidiacono, James Bell, and Darrun Hilliard each made a three point basket. Villanova outscored Creighton 22-7 in the final seven minutes of the first half. They had something good going and were able to cut the lead to only 13, which was pretty good considering the mindblowing long range shooting of Creighton. They were 14 for 22 in three point attempts in the first half alone.
Creighton picked up from where they left off in the first half, draining shots, especially from long range. They continued their patient style of offense, taking time off the shot clock to move the ball around until finding a hole in the defense; where the open man can take the high percentage shot. For Villanova, their shot selection wasn’t even bad. They took good shots but the ball just wouldn’t fall through. On many occasions, audible sighs were heard as the ball would go in and then out of the hoop. They could have used the same luck or supernatural force that just seemed to favor Creighton. The frustration was just everywhere in the Wells Fargo Center. It just wasn’t Villanova’s night. They were not even playing bad basketball, Creighton was virtually unstoppable. They kept draining their shots, despite a hand in their face or the pressure placed before them. Any team that went up against this type of shooting tonight would have lost and unfortunately Villanova just happened to be who they were playing tonight. As much as we would have all loved for it to be a little closer or even better, a win, there was nothing noticeably or particularly bad about the Wildcats’ performance tonight. It was just a magical record-setting night for Ethan Wragge and Creighton, whose 21 three pointers set a new Big East record.
For Villanova, James Bell led the team with 19 points and 3 rebounds. JayVaughn Pinkston had 11 points and 5 rebounds. Darrun Hilliard chipped in another 10 for the Wildcats.
This time the leading man wasn’t Doug McDermott, although he still had 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists, instead it was Ethan Wragge. Wragge finished with 27 points, all coming off of three pointers. Jahenns Manigat added 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists for Creighton.
The Wildcats will hit the road for a game against Marquette this Saturday, January 25, at 2 p.m. They will return to the Wells Fargo Center on February 22, to take on the St. John’s Red Storm.