Creighton again routs Villanova

Creighton's Isaiah Zierden outraces James Bell on a drive to the basket. Zierden scored 13 points.
Creighton's Isaiah Zierden outraces James Bell on a drive to the basket. Zierden scored 13 points. (ERIC FRANCIS / Getty Images)
Posted: February 18, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. - After Creighton clobbered his team by 28 points last month at the Wells Fargo Center, Villanova coach Jay Wright came up with a strategy for Sunday that would cut down on the Bluejays' three-point shooting and still try to keep Doug McDermott from going off.

Following a painful afternoon in front of a raucous sellout crowd at CenturyLink Center, it's back to the drawing board for Wright and the Wildcats, especially if they see Creighton again in the Big East tournament.

McDermott, the favorite for national player of the year, tied his season high with 39 points, and the 18th-ranked Bluejays were lights-out from the field once again in another one-sided win over the No. 6 Wildcats, this one finishing 101-80 in the meeting of the conference's top two teams.

"It's hard to say we made adjustments when the outcome was exactly the same, but we really did," Wright said.

It was a rough go for the Wildcats (22-3, 10-2 Big East), who dropped to a half-game behind the Bluejays (21-4, 11-2) and now find themselves without the benefit of the head-to-head tiebreaker if the two teams tie for first place at the end of the regular season.

Creighton knocked down 21 three-point baskets in its Jan. 20 win over the Wildcats, with Ethan Wragge accounting for nine. This time, Wright eliminated the double-teaming and trapping that had his team struggling to find the Bluejays shooters on the perimeter last month.

"That's why they're a well-coached team," he said. "Last time, they hurt us with the three, and we took that away, and this time they drove the ball on us. We didn't guard the dribble well. We adjusted, and they adjusted."

The Bluejays, playing without a steady post presence, outscored the Wildcats, 44-22, in the paint. McDermott finished 13 of 17 with an array of inside baskets, step-back mid-range jumpers, and four three-pointers in moving up to 13th place on the NCAA Division I career scoring list with 2,863 points, ahead of Larry Bird.

"We didn't front him as much," Wright said. "We didn't switch on him as much. We stayed behind him, so he killed us with twos."

Creighton coach Greg McDermott, father of the team's star player, said he prepared his team to drive to the hoop more figuring Villanova would try to stay close to his three-point shooters, including Wragge, who hit only one trey Sunday.

"I think because they took threes away, they created opportunities for guys to get to the rim," McDermott said.

For the game, the Bluejays shot 64.2 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from deep.

Villanova was within range after James Bell's three-pointer made it 33-31 with 5 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the first half. But Creighton then took control with an 11-0 run, four points coming from McDermott, and grabbed its largest lead of the period, 46-31.

Bell, who led Villanova with 18 before fouling out with 6:11 remaining, finished the half with two more threes for a 50-37 deficit, but the Bluejays went on an early 7-0 run in the second half and extended their lead to as many as 25.

The Wildcats don't have much time to dwell on this loss because their next game is Tuesday night at Providence. But Wright will find the mistakes and fix them.

"We felt we didn't play our game at home against them," he said. "But now when you play this game, you see. You know what? This is what we are against Creighton. We've done it twice in a row. So we've got to learn from this."


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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