Instant Replay: Creighton 96, No. 4 Villanova 68

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Instant Replay: Creighton 96, No. 4 Villanova 68

BOX SCORE

Jay Wright said on Saturday that he had “no clue yet” as to how he would have his Villanova team defend a potent Creighton squad when the two programs went head to head.

Whatever the coach came up with didn’t work. Not even close.

Newly-minted No. 4 Villanova succumbed to a barrage of three-pointers during an ugly 96-68 loss to Creighton at the Wells Fargo Center Monday night.

The Wildcats allowed the Bluejays to make 21 of 35 attempts from three-point range during the defeat. Creighton’s Ethan Wragge was in a rhythm like no other, scoring a career-high 27 points on 9 for 14 shooting -- all three-pointers. The nine threes from Wragge tied Creighton's single-game mark held by Kyle Korver in 2003.

The loss snapped Villanova’s (16-2, 5-1 Big East) five-game winning streak and was Wright's worst in his 13 seasons at the helm, while Creighton (16-3, 6-1) bounced back from an upset loss to Providence on Saturday.

Turning point
We can actually go back to Saturday for this one.

Wragge made just 2 of 8 attempts -- all three-pointers -- for eight points during Creighton’s 81-68 loss to Providence that knocked the Bluejays out of the AP Top 25 rankings.

You can’t expect a player that shoots 47.9 percent from the field and 48.5 percent from long range to have two off games in a row.

Villanova allowed Wragge to walk right into his comfort zone from the opening tip. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward nailed two threes in the game’s first two minutes and he was just getting warmed up.

He drilled another deep three at the 17:06 mark to put the Bluejays up 15-5 and force an angry Jay Wright to call a timeout. That didn’t stop the onslaught, however, as Wragge proceeded to hit two more from downtown immediately following that Wildcats timeout. He added two more bombs after the official TV timeout to give Creighton a 27-8 edge just six minutes into the game.

In all, Wragge hit 8 of 10 three-pointers in the first half for 24 points, surpassing his career high before the break. His teammates provided plenty of help, making six of their own 12 attempts from distance to balloon their lead to as much as 28 points.

The Wildcats finally settled in and were able to chip away until the deficit was 13 at intermission, but the damage had already been done.

Big men on campus
In addition to Wragge, who also added three rebounds and three assists, All-American Doug McDermott did a little bit of everything for Creighton. The senior forward had 23 points, five rebounds and three assists on the night.

Guard Jahenns Manigat scored 19 points on 6 of 7 shooting for Creighton.

James Bell led Villanova with 19 points. JayVaughn Pinkston added 11 and five rebounds, while Darrun Hilliard had 10.

Inside the box score
• Villanova lost at the Wells Fargo Center after going a perfect 3-0 -- all against ranked teams -- in the building last season.

• The victory marked Creighton's first true road win against a ranked team since 1978 and its first win against a top-five team since 1970.

• The Wildcats shot 39.7 percent from the floor and 34.5 from three-point range in the game.

• Creighton had 25 assists on 33 made shots. The Bluejays' assist total was two more than the Wildcats' made field goals (23).

• Despite playing a perimeter-oriented game, Creighton still walked away with a 34-32 advantage in the rebounding battle.

• Villanova had two fast-break points in the game compared to 15 for Creighton.

Series
Monday’s game marked just the fourth time ever that these two programs have met and the first since 1952.

Villanova and Creighton played once each year from 1950-52, with the Wildcats winning all three.

Scout’s honor
Seven NBA scouts were in attendance for Monday night’s matchup. The Sixers, Spurs, Clippers, Wizards, Nets, Cavs and Jazz all had representatives in attendance.

While they were undoubtedly in the building to see how McDermott’s game would translate to the NBA level and perhaps some of Villanova’s young talent, the scouts certainly left with Wragge’s name added to their notes.

What’s next?
Villanova will try to rebound when it travels to Marquette for a 2 p.m. matchup on Saturday.

Creighton also gets back on the court Saturday with an 8 p.m. tilt at home against Georgetown.

St. Joe's can't overcome Phil Martelli's ejection in loss to St. Bonaventure

St. Joe's can't overcome Phil Martelli's ejection in loss to St. Bonaventure

BOX SCORE

A coach receiving an ejection usually fires up a team. Phil Martelli’s ejection in the second half Wednesday night set St. Joe’s back against St. Bonaventure, as the Hawks lost, 83-77, at Hagen Arena (see Instant Replay).

In the middle of the second half, St. Joe’s held possession for four straight plays thanks to offensive rebounds. The Hawks were trying desperately to trim a 59-55 deficit to a one-possession game.

For nearly a minute and a half, the Hawks had four attempts to score before Brendan Casper drove the lane, drawing contact — a foul that would go in the Bonnies' favor.

Martelli went ballistic, a move that would result in two technical fouls and an automatic ejection. The head coach left the court as boos showered the officials and chants of Martelli's name rained down from the stands.

St. Bonavenure’s deadliest offensive weapon of the night, Matt Mobley, drained all four free throws to make it a 63-55 game.

"There was a play in front of me, maybe it was 50-50, I have no idea,” Martelli said. “And all heck broke loose. I’ll have to look at the film and figure it out. Now the second guy warned me, he didn’t just fly off the handle.”

James Demery, who led St. Joe's with 21 points, wouldn't use his coach's tossing as an excuse for the failed rally.

“It is tough but at the end of the day," Demery said, "we still have to continue playing and keep that energy high."

Martelli’s ejection certainly was a turning point, but it wasn’t the only reason the Hawks lost. The coach described it best: “It still comes back to the numbers for me: turnovers and foul shooting.”

The Hawks went 18 for 27 from the free throw line, 3 for 18 from beyond the arc and had 15 turnovers, which were converted into 24 points for the Bonnies.

The numbers don't lie, but Martelli never wavered when asked about the effort his team put forward — instead, he offered there needs to be improvements made.

“It’s not will, it’s skill. It’s skill,” Martelli said. “I don’t have any question about their efforts. Their skill, and that’s not an excuse, but with the limited bodies, we just don’t get enough skill.”

With four minutes remaining, the Hawks found themselves down, 72-62, and all hope seemingly lost. But a small surge brought St. Joe's to within three with 26 seconds left to play. Charlie Brown went 4 for 4 from the free throw line, Demery added a layup and Chris Clover drained a three during the stretch. Nick Robinson capped it off with a three, whittling St. Bonaventure's lead down to 78-75.

“We don’t give up over here, everybody on this team has heart,” Demery said. “Every day we are going to go out there and give 110 percent. There’s some plays we didn’t finish. I mean, I had five turnovers, so we just have to finish.”

The Hawks tried to foul to stop the clock but the Bonnies were too efficient from the free throw line. The charity stripe and lack of time were St. Joe's ultimate demise.

In Robinson’s mind, his effort still wasn’t enough.

“If I would have made three free throws, we would have been tied,” Robinson said, referencing the three free throws he missed earlier in the game.

“We picked up the intensity and the positive energy,” Demery said of the late surge. “That’s what we need as a unit to be great. Everybody lifting each other up, that’s what it takes.”

The Hawks' next game will be at Saint Louis this Saturday (4:30 p.m./NBCSN).

No. 2 Villanova's run at the Pavilion ends at 48 with loss to No. 22 Butler

No. 2 Villanova's run at the Pavilion ends at 48 with loss to No. 22 Butler

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA, Pa. — It started with 9:37 left in the game with a foul shot by Kelan Martin, and it ended with 4:18 left with a three-pointer by Martin.

In between, nothing went right for Villanova.

It was a 5½-minute nightmare.

No. 22 Butler ran off 18 straight points against No. 2 Villanova on Wednesday, turning a seven-point deficit into an 11-point lead, and then hung on for a 74-66 win over the Wildcats, ‘Nova’s first loss on campus in more than four years (see Instant Replay).

Villanova has lost three games this year, two of them to Butler.

“You have to give them credit,” Villanova sophomore Jalen Brunson said. “They were just hitting every shot. As a team, we just didn’t really lock in defensively. All credit to them for what they were able to do offensively.”

Villanova led 49-42 with just over 9½ minutes left, but during that 5½-minute stretch, Butler made 7 of 11 shots — including 4 of 7 threes — to take a 60-52 lead.

Villanova went 6½ minutes without scoring. The Wildcats missed six straight shots and committed two turnovers during that 18-0 run.

“Nothing really changed,” Butler junior forward Martin said. “We just stuck together.

“We knew we might get punched in the mouth today, it happens on the road, especially with a good team. We responded well and stuck with it and went on a run and just kept grinding it out, possession by possession.”

The loss was the first ever on campus for Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and the other Villanova seniors. The Wildcats had won 48 straight games at the Pavilion since a 2013 loss to Providence. That was Ryan Arcidiacono's freshman year.

Villanova dropped to 26-3 overall and 13-3 in the Big East, and Butler — which had never won at Villanova — improved to 22-6 and 11-5.

One more Villanova win or Butler loss will still give Villanova the outright Big East Conference title and No. 1 seed in next month’s conference tournament in New York. 

Creighton lost Wednesday night to Providence, leaving Butler and Villanova the only schools that can win the Big East regular-season title. 

“We’ve got to have better attention to detail, and it starts with me,” Hart said. “On the defensive end, we got exposed and it started with me and that’s something that we’ve got to have better attention to detail from the seniors and [have it] trickle down.”

Villanova got the lead down to six — with the ball — with three minutes left and got as close as five during a wild last couple minutes, but Butler made its last eight foul shots to secure the win.

“It seemed like the last couple minutes took an hour,” Martin said.

Brunson shot 9 for 13 for 24 points, but the rest of the Wildcats were a combined 16 for 44.

Hart scored 18, but Jenkins shot 1 for 8 and 1 for 5 from three, Mikal Bridges had just three points and Donte DiVincenzo just six.

“They just played better than us in every phase,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We just have to give them credit. Sometimes you come into a game, and the other team plays better. You try everything and our guys competed to the end, I’m proud of them for that, but we just ran into a team that played better than us tonight in every phase.”

Butler led 8-0 early, but Villanova outscored the Bulldogs 44-28 over the next 22½ minutes and took its biggest lead at 44-36 seven minutes into the second half.

But Butler — down eight against the No. 2 team in the country in a gym where the Wildcats hadn’t lost in four years — kept battling.

“I thought our guys played pretty loose and free and were able to make some open looks against their pressure,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “They’re 15th in the country in defensive efficiency for a reason, but our guys just got into a rhythm and made some open shots.”

Martin had 22 points and eight rebounds for Butler on 7 for 11 shooting. Kamar Baldwin added 15 points before fouling out, and Avery Woodson scored 13.

Butler shot 51 percent and 40 percent from three. Villanova shot just 44 percent and 41 percent in the second half and made just 6 of 24 from the arc — 25 percent.

“Their physicality, we just didn’t handle it well,” Wright said. “We turned it over [and] couldn’t get any assists (eight on 25 baskets).

“They just do a great job of playing every possession. They get down, they don’t do anything different. They just keep grinding, grinding, and try to do the same thing. When they got down, they didn’t crack at all. They just kept executing.

“We didn’t crack either, but we just couldn’t get buckets. We didn’t execute well and a lot of it was their defense. They were just a better team than us tonight. We made more mistakes than they did.”