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.
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.
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.
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.
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.