Entering Wednesday night, Villanova had a big problem. 6-foot-11 senior Daniel Ochefu was still inactive following a concussion he sustained in practice last Friday.
Ochefu played a vital role in the Wildcats’ victory over Creighton exactly one month before. He and Josh Hart came together for a one-two punch of inside scoring that the Bluejays did not have an answer for.
This time around, Ochefu could sit on the bench in peace as the Wildcats got the job done with their three-point shooting.
Villanova used the one-two punch of Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson to get job done, beating the Bluejays 83-58.
“It’s nice to be home at the Pavilion,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “We’ve been out of sync a little bit. We just moved the ball well, we made the right shots. We made the extra pass tonight.”
Unlike the previous meeting between these two teams, Villanova was able to get its shots to fall from long range. The three-point ball was a big part of the Wildcats’ success.
Jenkins had the hot hand from long range, scoring 22 points while making 4-of-6 from three-point range.
He wasn’t the only one to enjoy such a performance, as it was infectious. Brunson added another 16 points and four assists. Just like Jenkins, he added another 4-of-6 shooting performance from long range.
Both teams got into a shootout from opening tip. For the first eight minutes of the game, neither side made anything else besides threes. Whenever one team sank one from long range, the other promptly responded with a three of its own.
Eventually, Creighton’s Maurice Watson Jr. ended the streak with a two point basket to make it 15-14 with just under 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
While Creighton may have stopped making threes, for Villanova it felt like the opposite. The Wildcats continued to drain their shots from deep, scoring over half of their points from beyond the arc.
Villanova shot 16-of-29 (55.2%) from long range.
Creighton kept it close in the first half, until a 25-8 run over the last seven and a half minutes allowed the Wildcats to pull away.
“I thought that really changed the momentum of the game,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said.
When the second half began, Villanova simply poured in more from long range to help pad its lead. The Bluejays quickly found themselves buried under Villanova’s impeccable three-point shooting performance.
Villanova outscored Creighton 38-26 in the second half, even pushing its lead to as high as 29.
Fortunately for Villanova, the game could have gone differently if Creighton center Geoffrey Groselle was healthy. The 7-foot senior played limited minutes on Wednesday night.
He suffered an ankle injury from the Seton Hall game that still affected him. Originally expected to not play at all, he ended up logging 15 minutes. Groselle finished with just six points and four boards. It was a true equalizer with Ochefu out.
“I think they were a little short handed,” Wright said. “Groselle was definitely not a 100-percent, so that made them a perimeter oriented team.”
Aside from Jenkins and Hart, Phil Booth and Josh Hart also eclipsed double figures. Hart chipped in 13 points and fell just short of a double-double with nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Booth added 10 points, four boards, and six assists.
Darryl Reynolds, who stepped in for Ochefu once again, only had four points but had a great impact on the boards. He collected a game-high 13 rebounds.
“The confidence is definitely growing, being out there and playing,” Reynolds said. “The trust from my teammates definitely helps me out there.”
As for Ochefu, his status is still unknown for Saturday.
“We don’t know yet, he’s in that process,” Wright said. “We’re day-to-day with him.”
Creighton was paced by Watson Jr., who finished with a team-high 16 points and five assists. No other player finished in double figures.
The Bluejays went cold in the second half, only shooting 10-for-28 (35.7%) on the floor and an even worse 1-for-6 (16.7%) from long range.
Villanova improves to 19-3 overall and 9-1 in Big East play. The Wildcats will head over to Providence for a rematch with the Friars this Saturday at 2:30 p.m.