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Creighton falls to No. 19 Villanova in nearly complete reversal of first meeting
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Creighton falls to No. 19 Villanova in nearly complete reversal of first meeting

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Trey Alexander

Villanova's Bryan Antoine and Justin Moore block a shot by Creighton's Trey Alexander.

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Villanova senior Jermaine Samuels was whistled for a foul and he started clapping.

A teammate subbed in for him and Samuels kept clapping all the way to the bench.

The foul didn’t matter. Samuels was trying to harass a Creighton ball-handler along the perimeter and got too handsy. But the tone had been set.

The Wildcats (10-4, 3-1 Big East), in their house this time, were the aggressor Wednesday night. They bullied the Bluejays inside and outhustled them along the perimeter in a commanding 75-41 win.

Dixon, Kalkbrenner

Villanova forward Eric Dixon takes a shot over Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner.

It was nearly a complete reversal from the first meeting Dec. 17, when CU took control early and soared late with precision and poise in a 79-59 win in Omaha.

This time, the Jays (10-4, 2-1) weren’t as sharp. And Villanova had plenty to do with that.

“I feel like they kind of made it personal after the first game,” senior Ryan Hawkins said. “Nothing was easy. No cut was easy. Every time you caught the ball there was a hand on you. Some of it’s a credit to them, getting into us a little bit. Some of it’s on us. We didn’t respond to that same physicality.”

The 41 points marked the lowest single-game total for CU in seven years.

The Wildcats disrupted Creighton’s offense with their physicality and tenacity, forcing CU into 10 first-half turnovers and holding it to 35.6% shooting for the game. The Jays struggled to get looks inside (a season-low 20 points in the paint), and instead settled for 3-point tries (and missed all 15 of their second-half attempts).

“We tried to focus on pressuring them ... and containing the drivers, not letting them get deep in the paint,” Villanova junior Justin Moore said. “Last game, they kind of went one-on-one against us and got easy shots. (Wednesday, it was us) being tough and physical, and guarding them.”

The Wildcats left their mark on the game in other ways, too.

They beat the Jays to loose balls — Villanova rebounded 10 of its first 23 misses and held a 13-6 edge in second-chance points.

The Wildcats attacked downhill, going right at the interior of Creighton’s defense and either working their way to the foul line (11 attempts before halftime) or creating good looks inside.

CU didn’t have an answer.

It didn’t help that center Ryan Kalkbrenner, who sprained an ankle in practice Tuesday, wasn’t 100% healthy, coach Greg McDermott said.

“They were just so much better than us,” McDermott said. “We looked like a bunch of young kids. They were more physical. They were more disciplined. And the score certainly was reflective of that.”

It’s the first time all year that the Jays weren’t able to absorb an opponent’s surge and answer with one of their own. Even when Colorado State splashed in a record 20 3-pointers during a neutral-site game in November, Creighton hung tough.

But not Wednesday. Not at Villanova.

The Wildcats held CU to five points over the final 10 minutes of the first half, extending a three-point lead to 36-22 at the break. Junior Justin Moore, who finished with 22 points, had a 7-0 run by himself out of the break to force a timeout.

The lead grew to 46-22 on the next possession. Villanova stretched it to as many as 35.

“Their defense was really good,” McDermott said. “We won the battle in the paint by a large margin at our place. We lost that battle (Wednesday).”

Creighton is now 0-6 inside Finneran Pavilion, where the Wildcats have won 29 in a row.


Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports

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