Villanova, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off just their second loss of the season, the fourth-ranked Villanova Wildcats get back to action on Sunday night when they play host to the Creighton Bluejays in a Big East Conference clash at The Pavilion.
Creighton has largely disappointed this season, as it enters this contest sporting a 9-11 overall record, which includes an 0-7 mark in Big East play. The Bluejays have lost eight straight games, with the latest being a 64-61 decision at Butler this past Wednesday. Since the end of November, the squad has won only three games while losing 10. Creighton is just 1-6 in true road games.
Villanova took a 17-1 record into its recent bout with rival Georgetown, and the Wildcats couldn't overcome a slow start by them and a hot start by the Hoyas as they dropped a 78-58 decision on the road. The 78 points put up by GU marked the highest allowance by Villanova this season, and the Hoyas are only the second team to shoot at least 50 percent from the field against the Wildcats. As a result, Villanova now find itself at 4-2 in conference as the Big East race heats up.
Villanova leads the all-time series with Creighton, 5-2, but both victories for the Bluejays came last season by a staggering 49 combined points. They were the only two Big East losses suffered by the Wildcats during the regular season.
Rick Kreklow scored 16 points off the bench for Creighton in its recent clash with Butler, but he received little help from his teammates as the Bluejays lost yet again, albeit by just three points. James Milliken was the only other player to reach double digits for Creighton, as he tallied 10 points. Devin Brooks was credited with 10 rebounds for the Bluejays, who shot 44.9 percent from the floor, went 7-of-18 from distance, and converted 10-of-13 free throws. Unfortunately, 19 turnovers offset a stellar defensive effort that saw Butler shoot only 33.8 percent from the field, missing 16 of its 20 3-point tries along the way.
Creighton lost more than the game against Butler, as guard Isaiah Zierden suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second year in a row. Zierden was netting 9.5 ppg while leading the team with 44 3-pointers, a .396 3-point shooting percentage, as well as 90 percent effort at the free-throw line. Austin Chatman is the only players averaging double figures for the Bluejays this season, but his 11 ppg doesn't exactly elicit fear in many opponents. Overall, Creighton is scoring 67.8 ppg while allowing 65.4 ppg, and the team, despite being one of the best in the country at the charity stripe (.750), is shooting just 41.7 percent from the field overall.
Georgetown used a 17-0 run in the first half to put considerable distance between itself and Villanova, leading to a 20-point home win for the Hoyas. Ryan Arcidiacono nailed four 3-pointers en route to a team-high 16 points, while Josh Hart chipped in 10 points before fouling out as the only other player to reach double figures for the Wildcats, who shot just 34.1 percent from the floor while allowing their hosts to drain 51.1 percent of their total shots, including 6-of-12 out on the perimeter. The 'Cats suffered a 34-26 deficit on the glass, and they committed 17 turnovers which led to 24 points for the Hoyas. GU also logged favorable margins in both points in the paint (26-10) and bench points (31-15).
Despite the poor showing last Monday in the nation's capital, Villanova is one of the top teams in the country. It averages a solid 75.9 ppg while permitting only 61.5 ppg. The Wildcats outshoot the opposition in every area, connecting on 46.8 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 35.7 performance from beyond the arc, and they are also on the plus side of the ledger with regard to rebounding (+2.8) and turnover (+4.0) differential. Darrun Hilliard averages 12.8 ppg to lead a balanced attack for coach Jay Wright's club, and he is joined in double figures by three others. In addition. JayVaughn Pinkston (9.8 ppg) and Arcidiacono (9.2 ppg) are close to joining the ranks.