Creighton buries Villanova under a barrage of threes

Creighton's Austin Chatman gets hacked by Villanova's Tony Chennault. The Wildcats' pressing defense was overmatched against the Bluejays' shooters.
Creighton's Austin Chatman gets hacked by Villanova's Tony Chennault. The Wildcats' pressing defense was overmatched against the Bluejays' shooters. (   STEVEN M. FALK / Staff)
Posted: January 22, 2014

When Creighton connected on its first seven shots - all from behind the three-point arc - in Monday night's game against Villanova, the large Wildcats contingent in the Wells Fargo Center crowd of 14,114 had to be thinking (wishing, hoping) that the Bluejays would start missing soon.

The visitors rarely did.

In one of the all-time shooting performances ever seen - college or pro - in the huge South Philadelphia arena, Creighton drained a Big East-record 21 three-point baskets and rolled to a 96-68 victory, the first conference loss for the fourth-ranked Wildcats.

In handing the Wildcats (16-2, 5-1 Big East) their worst loss of the 13-year Jay Wright era on the Main Line, the Bluejays (16-3, 6-1) shot 60 percent from deep and 56.9 percent overall, and handed out 25 assists on their 33 field goals.

The Wildcats' pressing defense, which had been a key to the team's five previous league victories by an average of better than 16 points, was overmatched on this night.

"We tried our press; that's what we do," Wright said. "Early, they really moved the ball against it. We didn't get any traps; we were just kind of standing around. When you open the floor up and you don't get any traps, a team like that is going to move the ball quickly, and they got open threes."

Ethan Wragge, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, took advantage, making shots from long distance look as easy as shooting layups. During the Bluejays' 7-for-7 start, Wragge had five threes with the game a little more than four minutes old.

After all-American Doug McDermott missed a two-point shot, Wragge came back and knocked down back-to-back treys, making Creighton 9 for 9 in that department. He finished the game with nine three-pointers - tying the school record set by former 76er Kyle Korver - and 27 points.

"My teammates did an unbelievable job," said Wragge, the Big East leader at 48.5 percent on threes entering the game. "Once I hit one, they know I'm hunting for two and three. It's a hard feeling to describe once you get one to go in. You just kind of let it fly and don't think about it. You've got to shoot it to make it, so just let it go."

Said Wright: "I don't remember being in a game where a team hit their first nine [three-point] shots. I've seen these guys do it [on tape], but I haven't been in a game like this."

Creighton's 13th three of the game, by Isaiah Zierden, gave the visitors a 47-19 lead with 7 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the first half. The Wildcats followed with their best basketball of the game, running off a 22-7 spurt the rest of the half to close to within 54-41 at the break.

But the Wildcats went cold in the second half and the Bluejays spurted again, going on a 24-2 run that featured three three-point baskets by McDermott.

An alley-oop dunk by Will Artino with 6:36 to play boosted the margin to 40 - yes, 40 - points at 90-50.

McDermott sank five threes and added 23 points for the Bluejays. James Bell led Villanova with 19 points.

"Sometimes we've got to just say, all right, we put together a lot of good games in a row," Wright said. "We had an off-night here in terms of our effort, but you've got to give Creighton most of the credit for that."


BY THE NUMBERS

7 for 7

Creighton's start against Villanova, all on three-pointers.

21

Three-pointers by the Bluejays, breaking the Big East record of 20. The NCAA record is 28.

9

Three-pointers by Creighton's Ethan Wragge, on 14 shots.


What a Roll

Creighton's first seven shots against Villanova, all made 3-pointers:

Ethan Wragge, 19:36 to play, 3-0.

Wragge, 18:55, 6-0.

Jahenns Manigat, 18:16, 9-2.

Doug McDermott, 17:42, 12-5.

Wragge, 17:04, 15-5.

Wragge, 16:12, 18-5.

Wragge, 15:47, 21-5.


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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