Hot-shooting No. 3 Villanova takes down Creighton 83-58
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) With its senior center out of for a second straight game with a concussion, No. 3 Villanova knew it would have to rely on outside shooting.
What the Wildcats didn't expect is just how many of those shots would go in.
Kris Jenkins scored 22 points, Jalen Brunson had 16 and Villanova rolled past Creighton 83-58 on Wednesday night.
Josh Hart added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats (19-3, 9-1 Big East), who have won 11 of 12. With Daniel Ochefu not in the middle again, Villanova shot 16 for 29 (55 percent) from 3-point range with Brunson and Jenkins each going 4 for 6.
The 16 3s were the most Villanova has hit this season and the most Creighton has ever given up.
''It's nice to be home at the Pavilion, man,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ''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.''
On the hunt for its third straight Big East title, Villanova remained a game up on Xavier for first place.
Playing just outside his native Philadelphia, Maurice Watson Jr. led Creighton (14-9, 5-5) with 16 points and five assists. The Bluejays have lost three straight for the first time this season.
Creighton, the league's top shooting team, attempted 25 3-pointers but only made eight against the Wildcats, who own the conference's top-ranked defense.
''We got better defensively as the game went on,'' Wright said.
After Creighton opened a four-point lead midway through the first half on consecutive 3-pointers from Watson and Toby Hegner, Villanova reeled off the next 10 points to take the lead for good. The Wildcats closed the half on a 13-4 run to go up 45-32. The spurt was highlighted by five points apiece from Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges.
The Wildcats went ahead 60-38 with 15 minutes left. They led by as many as 31 points and closed the game on a 63-34 run.
''I don't think defensively we competed at a level that we're capable of competing at,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. ''Villanova can make you feel that way.''
Booth added 10 points for Villanova and Ryan Arcidiacono and Bridges chipped in nine apiece. Filling in for Ochefu, Darryl Reynolds had 13 rebounds, helping the Wildcats own a 38-27 advantage on the glass.
PLAYING ON ONE FOOT
After allowing Ochefu to score 19 points the last time Creighton played Villanova this season, McDermott naturally hoped the center's absence would create a big opportunity for his team.
Of course, the problem was that the Bluejays center, Geoffrey Groselle, was also dealing with an injury, scoring just six points in 15 minutes on a hobbled ankle.
''It was a little tricky with us because Groselle was playing on one foot, too,'' McDermott said. ''I probably got more out of him than I thought. I wasn't anticipating that he'd be able to play.''
LEARNING TO PLAY WITHOUT OCHEFU
The Wildcats have won two straight with Ochefu out of commission, and Reynolds said his confidence is ''definitely growing'' as he tries to fill that void.
Wright has certainly noticed, specifically pointing to his help defense on Watson as a key part of Wednesday's win.
''It's impressive when a 5 man can switch onto a point guard who's that quick and keep him in front of him,'' he said.
Wright isn't sure if Ochefu will be back for Saturday's game at Providence, saying the senior is still going through concussion protocol.
Creighton: The Bluejays have lost four straight to Villanova but their last win over the Wildcats was a memorable one as they eclipsed 100 points in a 101-80 triumph on Feb. 16, 2014. ... Creighton dropped to 22-131 all-time against nationally ranked opponents, including a 1-5 mark this season. The Bluejays have never beaten a team ranked in the top three.
Villanova: The Wildcats have won 37 straight games at the Pavilion, its campus gym. ... Villanova made all 12 of its free throws in the first half. ... Villanova's all-time leading scorer, Kerry Kittles, was sitting courtside for the game.
Creighton: Hosts DePaul on Saturday
Villanova: Visits No. 11 Providence on Saturday