VILLANOVA – Sophomore transfer Eric Paschall scored a team-high 19 points – including five dunks – and Kris Jenkins added 15, as No. 2 Villanova pulled away late to beat No. 23 Creighton, 79-63, and clinch the 2017 Big East Conference regular-season title outright.
Paschall, starting during Darryll Reynolds’ injury absence, shot 8 for 12 from the field and added six rebounds.
Creighton’s last lead was 45-43 six minutes into the second half, but a Paschall slam and Jenkins’ first three after five misses sparked a 16-4 run that gave the Wildcats a 59-49 lead with 8 ½ minutes left. Creighton got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Paschall’s career high is a 31-point game for Fordham against NYIT on Nov. 14, 2014.
Villanova again struggled from three-point range but had tremendous success attacking the basket, especially in the second half of the final game at the Pavilion for two years.
The Wildcats shot just 17 percent from three (3 for 18) but 69 percent from 2 (24 for 35) and repeatedly got to the foul line in the second half, when they were 14 for 18.
Jenkins again struggled from three (1 for 7) yet still finished with 15 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.
Josh Hart shot 7 for 11 for 16 points and added seven rebounds and three assists.
Villanova opened a streaky first half by taking a 7-0 lead, but Creighton hit four straight threes in less than two minutes and led by three. Villanova then went on a 17-2 run and led by as many as 10 points before Creighton finished the half on a 13-3 run to tie the game at 33.
There were seven lead changes in the first seven minutes of the second half, but Villanova finally pulled away and outscored Creighton 36-18 over the last 14 minutes.
Mikal Bridges added 11 points and eight rebounds for Villanova, while Jalen Brunson had nine points and three assists.
Freshman Dante DiVincenzo came off the bench to contribute nine points and four rebounds for Villanova.
What it means
Villanova improved to 27-3 overall and 14-3 in the Big East, clinching the conference title outright. Entering play Saturday, only Villanova or Butler was in position to win the conference title, with Villanova holding a magic number of one.
Villanova, which lost to Butler on Wednesday, has now won 12 straight games immediately following losses (15 if you carry over to the next year).
The Wildcats last lost consecutive games at the end of the 2012-2013 season, when they fell to Louisville in the Big East quarterfinals and to North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Creighton fell to 22-7 overall and 9-7 in the Big East. The Bluejays are 4-6 since an 18-1 start.
Stat of the day
Marcus Foster had 25 points and eight assists, becoming the first player with 25 points and five assists against Villanova since Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame, who had 30 points and 10 rebounds (and five steals) in a 93-72 win over Villanova on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.
Villanova led by one at 48-47 when Jenkins finally buried a three for a four-point lead.
This was Villanova’s last game at the Pavilion for about 20 months. Villanova will play most of its home games at the Wells Fargo Center next year while renovations are made to the Pavilion.
Villanova is 293-62 all-time at the Pavilion, which opened in 1985. That includes a 131-12 mark since the start of the 2004-2005 season.
By the numbers
Khyri Thomas scored 17 points for the Bluejays … Creighton was 7 for 14 from three in the first half but 4 for 13 in the second half ... Villanova has won six straight against Creighton since a 101-80 loss in February of 2014 when Doug McDermott scored 39 … Reynolds, Villanova’s second-leading rebounder at 5.5 per game, sat out a fifth straight game with a rib injury.
Villanova has a week off before facing Georgetown at the Verizon Center in Washington at noon Saturday. Georgetown is 14-15 overall and 5-11 in the Big East.