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Villanova Report: Nova Falters at Creighton, But Regains Step in 2OT Against PC
It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t an off night for the Cats. It wasn’t just one special night for the Jays. Because it happened again.
In Omaha on Sunday night, the #18 Creighton Blue Jays coasted past the #6 Villanova Wildcats with ease for the second time this season, regaining sole possession of first place in the Big East.
These two teams met in Philly just a month ago, and it was a lot of the same the second time around – shockingly efficient shooting, open looks on seemingly every possession and another dominate Creighton W.
Creighton made a definitive statement to the country on Sunday, showing that they’re not just an anomaly, but rather a true threat to find themselves playing in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament come March.
Doug McDermott led the way as he lit Nova up for 39 points and seven rebounds.
Right off the bat it was a familiar, painful story for Nova, as McDermott drained a three to start the scoring parade for Creighton.
The senior forward played like the Naismith Player of The Year front-runner that he is, making any defender – or defenders – Villanova put on him looked completely lost and out-of-place.
To say he put on a clinic would be an understatement. He hit threes in transition, fade-away jumpers with a defender in his face, lay-ups after cutting and beating his man to the rim, and any other shot he decided to take.
One particular shot that stood out occurred in the second half a few feet from the basket. McBucketts dizzied freshman Kris Jenkins, who had the sorry task of “guarding” him, quickly moving from his right to left, with his pivot foot planted, lifting himself to the hoop to finish with his left hand.
Jenkins is probably still trying to wrap his head around that shot. Creighton overall shot 64% from the floor and 60% from 3-point land – they’re not hard to miss when the middle of the lane is that wide open or the threes taken are uncontested.
As if a performance like that was not enough, McDermott passed Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list in men’s Division I basketball. McDermott is now 13th all-time with 2,863 points; Bird had 2,850.
Granted Bird only played for three years and did not have the three-point line when he played, this is still an amazing feat – if you haven’t seen the McDemon trounce an opponent yet, check him out.
Villanova will hope to try their luck against him and the Jays again if both teams match up by chance in Big East Tournament.
Villanova dropped to #9 in the AP poll following their Sunday night loss and had to quickly get over any feelings of self-doubt or worry as they headed straight to Rhode Island to take on Providence College.
PC has been tossed in and out of “on the bubble” conversations for the past few weeks. They have notched solid wins against the likes of Xavier, Gtown and Nova-killer Creighton (the latter obviously being the most impressive on the resume), but have also been inconsistent, and at times, flat-out unimpressive (they lost to Seton Hall and every game in February except for those against DePaul…which is nothing to write home about).
Needless to say, the Friars needed a signature win against the Cats, but could not hold on.
This game was not exactly how Jay Wright wanted to get over the Creighton hangover, but he’ll take the 82-79 double overtime win on the road.
The Wildcats were behind by as much as nine in the first half, but never let Providence pull away with, closing the lead to a tie by halftime. The second half showed Nova up for most, but similarly to PC in the first, Villanova could never pull away.
Villanova had the ball for the last shot in regulation, overtime…and double overtime. Each possession they were able to run a set play and on each run sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono held the ball until the waning seconds, hitting an and-one layup in 2OT to prove the third time is a charm.
Nova is now an impressive 4-0 on the season in overtime games.
The Wildcats could never quite found their rhythm in this game, although their defensive steals that led to fast-break points did seem to keep them from wandering too far off course.
Otherwise, there were two major problems on display in the PC game, the first of which was free throw shooting.
Coach Wright’s teams have been praised over the years for their consistent Big East and national leading charity stripe percentages. This year the story has been different and it was on full display Tuesday night.
The Cats were 15-24 from the line while their foes were 20-24. Many of the Cats made free throws were luckily hit down the stretch, but this is an area where they need to focus in on if they want to continue to edge out opponents in close games.
The second problem was the decline of play from the Nova bench. The excellent energy and effort off the bench for Villanova has been a source of great play for the Cats all year, most of the time rotating nine deep.
But Tuesday night only two points (just two!) were scored off the bench on a put-back by freshman guard Josh Hart, who has totally imploded. I was Hart’s biggest advocate and supporter earlier in the season, but something has gone terribly wrong with his game of late.
Here are his point totals for the last nine games: 4, 0, 0, 6, 4, 0, 3, 6 and 2.
Throughout that stretch he has not hit a single three-pointer. Not one. I still have a soft spot for Hart – his offensive rebounding ability and knack for keeping a play alive at key points during every game shines brightly for me, but his poise when shooting has gone elsewhere.
This element of Villanova’s game needs to rebound quickly, as key components like Hart, Ennis, Jenkins and even Chennault need to get provide for this team and give the starters a breather.
Villanova takes on the red-hot Red Storm at home on Saturday. As the season winds down Nova suddenly can’t seem to catch a break against a sub-par team, but that’s life in the Big East – new or old.
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