VILLANOVA, Pa. — Villanova buried any hopes Creighton had Wednesday night of knocking off the nation’s third-ranked team with avalanche of 3-point baskets.
The Wildcats rolled to an 83-58 victory by making 16 of 29 shots from beyond the arc. The 16 3-point baskets were the most a Creighton team has allowed an opponent.
“They shot a lot of comfortable 3s tonight,” Creighton guard Maurice Watson said on the Bluejays’ postgame radio show. “We didn’t make them uncomfortable.
“The No. 3 team in the country, you better make them uncomfortable. You can’t give them confidence. They got on their run and made shots.”
The Wildcats swung the game that drew a sellout crowd of 6,500 to The Pavilion by going on a 25-8 run in the final eight minutes of the opening half to turn a 24-20 deficit into a 45-32 lead.
Villanova then outscored Creighton 12-6 in the first four minutes of the second half, and the rout was on as the Wildcats won their 37th straight game at their on-campus venue to improve to 19-3 and 9-1 in the Big East.
“It’s nice to be home at The Pavilion, man,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said in his postgame press conference. “We had been out of sync a little bit. But we just moved the ball well, made the right shots and made the extra pass tonight.”
That combination left Creighton defenseless, although coach Greg McDermott said another factor contributed in his team’s demise.
“I don’t think we’re competing at the level that we had been competing,” said McDermott, whose team lost its third straight game in a 14-9 season. “I don’t think we’re competing through adversity in particular.
“I thought we competed early when our shots were going in, but when they made shots, once we defended them well, you can’t think about it. You have to get ready to play the next possession, and we’re not.”
That was evident in Villanova’s final 13 possessions of the opening half. Back-to-back 3-point baskets by Watson and Toby Hegner gave Creighton a 24-20 lead with 8:05 remaining, but the Wildcats countered by scoring 25 points on 11 possessions.
Villanova made 6 of its final 11 first-half shots from the field, including a pair of 3-point baskets. The Wildcats also converted 11 of 11 free-throw attempts.
Meanwhile, Creighton’s final 13 possessions of the half resulted in four turnovers and 3-for-8 shooting from the field. The Bluejays also missed 2 of 3 free throws and gave up 11 second-chance points.
“We came out focused and locked in, and then it just went south,” Watson said. “We abandoned our plan.”
Villanova then scored 27 of its 38 second-half points by connecting on 9 of 13 shots from beyond the arc (69.2 percent).
Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson each made four 3-point baskets for the Wildcats, while Josh Hart finished with three. Jenkins led Villanova with 22 points, Brunson finished with 16 and Hart had 13.
The Wildcats also got a big lift from backup forward Darryl Reynolds, who grabbed 13 rebounds in helping his team finish with a 38-27 advantage on the boards. Reynolds started in place of senior Daniel Ochefu, who missed his second straight game with a concussion.
Villanova turned two of Reynolds’ six offensive rebounds into second-chance 3-pointers that contributed to its strong first-half finish.
“We went to the zone, got stops and then gave up offensive rebounds,” McDermott said. “I was a little worried about trying to rebound out of that zone, and we just didn’t get it done.
“They had 12 points from the foul line and 12 second-chance points, and that’s a good portion of their production in the first half.”
In his return to his hometown, Watson had 16 points and five assists to lead Creighton. None of his teammates scored more than seven points.
Although the Bluejays lead the Big East in 3-point shooting, they have struggled to make shots in recent games from beyond the arc. Creighton made 6 of its first 13 3-point attempts against Villanova in taking its 24-20 lead but misfired on 11 of its 12 3-point shots after that.
“I don’t think we were trying to keep up with them,” said Watson, referring to the early 3-point barrage. “We haven’t shot the ball well, and we were seeing the ball go in a lot early. When you see that, you keep shooting.”
The loss dropped Creighton to 5-5 in league play. The skid started when the Bluejays blew a late lead in a Jan. 26 game at Georgetown. Creighton followed that up with a disappointing home loss to Seton Hall last Saturday.
With eight regular-season games remaining, McDermott said, Creighton still has time to get things headed back in the right direction.
“I certainly don’t like the way we’re playing right now,” he said. “Neither does anyone in the locker room. We need to have each other’s backs.
“Some guys need a kick in the rear, some guys need a pat on the back right now to get them through this period of time. We have to get back to practice and get to work.”