GAME NOTES: The Creighton Bluejays take on the Villanova Wildcats in a pivotal early Big East Conference clash.
Creighton had been soaring above the competition before visiting Providence on Saturday. The Bluejays suffered an 81-68 setback to the Friars, ending a 10- game win streak, leaving them at 15-3 overall and 5-1 in conference. Creighton will battle Georgetown next, as the team kicks off a three-game homestand.
On Saturday, Villanova won its fifth straight contest since suffering its first and only loss of the season to Syracuse at the end of December, topping DePaul in an 88-62 final. The Wildcats, who are a perfect 9-0 at home, will play four games at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, as following this evening's clash will be bouts with St. John's, Marquette and Georgetown.
Villanova won each of the three previous matchups with Creighton, all of which occurred between 1950 and 1952.
Despite 21 points from Doug McDermott, Creighton did not come up with enough stops on defense or get enough going offensively to take down Providence. The Bluejays allowed the Friars to sink 50.9 percent from the floor and Devin Brooks (10 points) was the only other player to reach double figures for the visitors.
Creighton is normally one of the top teams in the conference at both ends of the floor. The Bluejays lead the Big East in scoring (81.8 ppg), assists (18.5 apg) and field goal percentage (.491), while also playing strong defense (66.1 ppg, .409 FG percentage). McDermott (24.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is widely considered to be one of the best players in the country, and for good reason. The 6- foot-8 forward can score from anywhere on the floor, which has led to an average that is second only to Niagara's Antoine Mason (27.6 ppg) in the country. Ethan Wragge (11.3 ppg) is the only other member of the team averaging in double figures, but there are a total of seven players netting at least six ppg.
James Bell scored 17 points to lead five players in double figures as Villanova breezed by DePaul at The Pavilion on Saturday. The Wildcats shot 55.4 percent from the floor and registered assists on 21 of their 31 field goals. They also had a 37-26 edge on the glass and held the Blue Demons to 40.7 percent shooting.
The Wildcats are also a team that can score with alarming regularity while also putting on at the defensive end. The Wildcats rank second in the Big East in scoring (81.3 ppg) and assists (16.2 ppg), while surrendering only 65.4 ppg on 38.8 percent shooting. JayVaughn Pinkston (15.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is the primary scoring option on a roster that features four double-digit scorers. However, Pinkston had only eight points on 2-of-5 shooting against DePaul. Bell (13.9 ppg) and Darrun Hilliard (13.7 ppg, 3.1 apg) are also reliable scorers, while Josh Hart (10.1 ppg) provides a spark off the bench.
Villanova is one of the few teams in the Big East that has the defensive acumen to slow down McDermott. If they can force the Bluejays' star away from the basket and to rely on his teammates more, the Wildcats should come out on top.
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