The big question coming into Sunday's game against sixth-ranked Villanova was what could Creighton do for an encore?
The Bluejays made a school-record 21 3-pointers and beat the Wildcats by 28 points in a Jan. 20 game in Philadelphia. The almost insane shooting display made Creighton the talk of college basketball in the days following the game.
The Bluejays might again find themselves in that position after becoming the first team since 2009 to hit the century mark against the Wildcats in a 101-80 victory before the second-largest crowd in school history of 18,797.
“I didn't think we could play much better than we did at Villanova,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I'm not sure we didn't play better today.
“We didn't have the crazy shooting night from the 3-point line, but the other parts of the game were really good.”
Creighton shot 64.2 percent from the field Sunday after shooting 56.9 percent in the first meeting. The Bluejays again won the rebounding battle (26-23 Sunday, 34-32 in the first game).
Villanova shot 46 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc in matching its season scoring average. But Wildcats coach Jay Wright said Creighton did an excellent job of making Villanova take the shots it wanted rather than the one the visitors wanted to take.
“This was just real good team basketball,” Doug McDermott said. “We didn't have that crazy outburst like the last time, but we were good in all areas. We found a way to dig in defensively, and we won the battle for rebounds.
“There weren't many areas where we struggled. This one was just as impressive.”
Sickeningly so from Wright's vantage point.
“I think they might have executed better tonight,” Wright said. “That game at our place was epic. That's one for the history books, and that one felt out of reach.
“Tonight, I just felt like if we could shore up defensively, we'd be OK. We scored 80 points but we gave up 101. Defensively, you're not getting it done.”
Wright chuckled when asked about the defensive adjustments his team made from the first game to Sunday's contest.
“Didn't look like we made any,” Wright said. “Same score at halftime.”
Creighton enjoyed 13-point halftime leads in each game, scoring 54 points in Philadelphia and 50 Sunday.
“We actually played them a lot differently,” Wright said. “We didn't double-team as much, we didn't press or trap as much. We tried to stay home more.
“That's why they're a well-coached team. Last time they hurt us with the 3s. We took that away and they just drove the ball on us. We didn't guard the dribble well. We adjusted, they adjusted and it was the same thing.”
A first in Omaha since 1973
The win was Creighton's first over a top-10 team at home since the Bluejays defeated No. 7 Houston in 1973. Creighton, now 5-14 against ranked teams in Omaha, had not played such a game since 1983.
At the end of his press conference, Villanova's Wright offered up some unsolicited praise for the crowd.
“Great atmosphere for our first time here,” he said. “Pretty cool place.”
Nova slows Wragge, Jays hamper Pinkston
As expected, Villanova did everything it could to neutralize Ethan Wragge. The senior made his first seven 3-pointers, finishing with nine and a career-high 27 points in the first meeting.
Wragge got two shots Sunday, made one and scored five points. While Villanova made it difficult for Wragge, Creighton did an equally impressive job on Wildcats star forward JayVaughn Pinkston.
He missed his only shot in the first half after grabbing a rebound. He got six shots for the game, and while he matched his season scoring average in finishing with 15 points, he was never really a factor when the game was in doubt.
“We went at him with some double teams, depending on who was on the floor with him,” Greg McDermott said. “We have a ton of respect for him and he's a tough matchup. But when he attacks, it's often only two points. They have a lot of other guys that can beat you with three points at a time.”
Bits and pieces
Creighton guard Isaiah Zierden scored more points in 24 minutes Sunday than he had in his previous six games. In notching a career-high 13 points, Zierden made 4 of 5 shots, including his only 3-point attempt. He also was 4 of 5 from the foul line, had three assists without a turnover and grabbed a rebound. ... In matching his season-high scoring total, McDermott took over the national scoring lead. He improved his average to 25.9 and moved past Niagara's Antoine Mason, who is averaging 25.6. … Creighton tied an arena record with its 16th straight home win. The Bluejays have not trailed in the second half of any of those victories. … McDermott, who now has 2,863 points, will go into Wednesday's game at Marquette needing 10 points to move past Tyler Hansbrough and 22 to pass Elvin Hayes. … McDermott now has nine 30-point games this season, one shy of Bob Portman's school record, and 23 for his career. … Creighton improved to 4-0 when wearing its home gray uniforms.