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.

Villanova returns to top of AP poll after a week away

Villanova returns to top of AP poll after a week away

It didn't take long for Villanova to get back to the top of the AP poll.

A week, to be exact.

The 'Cats jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in this week's AP poll, edging out No. 2 Kansas by just 16 total voting points. Villanova had 1,580 total points compared to the 1,562 total points the No. 2 Jayhawks received from voters.

In a twist, the 16-1 Jayhawks actually had more first-place votes than the 17-1 Wildcats. Kansas received 32 first-place votes compared to Villanova's 28 first-place votes. But total votes are the deciding factor, so, advatange: Wildcats.

UCLA hopped up to No. 3, Gonzaga jumped up to No. 4 and Kentucky checked in at No. 5 to round out this week's top five.

Baylor, the No. 1 team in the land last week, fell to No. 6 after it was blown out by No. 7 West Virginia.

Beginning on Dec. 5, Villanova was No. 1 for five straight weeks before falling at No. 13 Butler on Jan. 5 and seeing a 20-game win streak come to an end.

Jay Wright's Wildcats blew past No. 22 Xavier and St. John's last week, but will face another Big East test when 12-5 Seton Hall visits The Pavilion on Monday night. The last time Villanova and Seton Hall met, the Pirates upset the Wildcats at MSG in the final of last season's Big East Tournament.

The Wildcats' schedule this week is closed out with a visit from Providence on Saturday afternoon.

Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo the next Josh Hart? Jay Wright believes so

Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo the next Josh Hart? Jay Wright believes so

NEW YORK — It’s hard to imagine higher praise from Jay Wright.

“I think he can be a Josh Hart,” Wright said. “I really do.”

Donte DiVincenzo is only two months into his redshirt freshman season at Villanova, and his coach is already comparing him to one of the heroes of last year’s NCAA championship team and a 2017 National Player of the Year candidate.

That’s pretty wild stuff, but it’s hard to argue with Wright.

The last two games have been a coming out for DiVincenzo, a Wilmington, Delaware native who played high school ball at Salesianum.

After scoring 20 points and shooting 5 for 17 in Villanova’s first four Big East games, DiVincenzo was 4 for 6 for 10 points with four rebounds and three assists Tuesday in a win over No. 15 Xavier at The Pavilion. On Saturday at Madison Square Garden — with his teammates all struggling from the field — he shot 7 for 10 from the field and 3 for 5 from three-point range for a career-high 19 points to go with three rebounds and two assists in the Wildcats’ win over St. John’s (see game recap).

Hart as a freshman? 7.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 21 minutes per game.

DiVincenzo so far as a freshman? 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 23 minutes per game.

DiVincenzo has been so good in these last two wins that, even coming off the bench, he’s played the third most minutes on the team – 31 ½ per game.

Josh Hart-esque.

“I talked to him about that before,” Wright said. “Just what impresses us so much about Josh is that he’s just complete. He does everything. There’s nothing on the basketball court he doesn’t do, and I think Donte can be that kind of player, too.”

On Saturday at the Garden, Villanova got off to another slow start. Ten minutes into the game, the Wildcats were shooting 2 for 12 from the field and 1 for 7 from three-point range and trailed by six.

It sure seemed DiVincenzo sensed how badly the Wildcats needed an offensive lift, because he proceeded to make four baskets in a five-minute stretch, including two confident looks from 3.

Those 10 points keyed a 16-6 run that gave ‘Nova the lead for good.

But DiVincenzo, echoing dozens of Villanova players from years past, said he never thinks offensively.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I don’t feel pressure offensively at all. Just focus on defending and rebounding. If the shots are falling for me, great. But if they’re not, just get back and focus on those two things.”

DiVincenzo is a freshman but did play in eight games last year before breaking his foot and sitting out the rest of the year. He did travel with the Wildcats and was on the bench during the NCAA title run.

Now, he’s the biggest surprise on the No. 3 team in the country. Villanova takes a 17-1 record and 4-1 Big East mark into a game Monday night at The Pavilion against Seton Hall, their first meeting since the Pirates beat the Wildcats in last year’s Big East title game.

Think about it.

‘Nova is down two players who Wright expected to be huge parts of this year’s team — title game hero Phil Booth, who's hurt and not expected back this year, and Amari Spellman, whom the NCAA ruled ineligible.

“We’re trying to get to a certain level of play,” Wright said. “We’re trying to figure ourselves out here. We thought we were going to be one kind of team earlier in the season and we lost a couple guys. We like our team, but we’re still trying to figure it out. We’re not a finished product yet.”

In six Big East games, DiVincenzo is averaging 8.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

No Villanova freshman has averaged 8.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in conference play since Lance Miller in 1990.

Overall, DiVincenzo is eighth among Big East freshmen in scoring, seventh in minutes, rebounding, assists and three-point shooting.

And trending upward.

“We’re really excited about him,” Wright said. “He’s doing everything for us. He’s playing point, he’s playing two-guard, he’s playing the three, he’s rebounding, defending, and that’s the kind of players you like to have.

“He’s only a freshman, and he works hard at it. Those two (DiVincenzo and Hart) compete against each other at practice, and he’s got the same competitiveness, so it’s exciting for us. We’re really fired up.

“And you’ve got to do it in games. We all know it’s going to come sometimes, but you’ve got to do it in games. Do it in the Garden? Against a tough aggressive team? Did it in the Xavier game? That’s big-time.”