Omaha, NE (SportsNetwork.com) - In a critical Big East Conference rematch, the 18th-ranked Creighton Bluejays and the sixth-ranked Villanova Wildcats square off with first place hanging in the balance.
Creighton buried a school record 21 3-pointers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to run past Villanova, 96-68, on Jan. 20. The win was the first on the road for the Bluejays against a ranked team, and their first in four tries against Villanova.
The Wildcats have won six straight since falling to Creighton, with that setback one of only two they have suffered all season. At 22-2, they have the best overall record in the Big East, as well as the top mark in league play (10-1), although they lead Creighton by just a half game. A visit to take on long-time Big East foe Providence is next.
Meanwhile, Creighton has won four of its last five since routing Villanova. The Bluejays narrowly defeated Butler, 68-63, on Thursday to bounce back from a 70-65 setback against St. John's. Creighton is the only other team in the Big East with at least 20 wins. It will visit Marquette in its next bout.
Darrun Hilliard scored 22 points to lead five players in double figures in Villanova's 87-62 bashing of DePaul on Wednesday night. The Wildcats sank 55.1 percent of their shots from the floor, including an incredible 15-of-26 from 3-point range.
No team in the Big East is scoring more than the Wildcats, who are also 21st in the country in the category (80.7 ppg), while knocking down 46.7 percent of their field goal attempts. Villanova is also a very strong defensive team. letting up only 66.7 ppg on 40.3 percent shooting this season. James Bell, (16 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Hilliard (13.9 ppg) and Ryan Arcidiacono (9.7 ppg, 3.7 apg) make up a fearsome backcourt trio for the Wildcats, with each scoring and moving the ball well. JayVaughn Pinkston (14.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) is the primary threat in the frontcourt and is coming off a 14-point, 11-rebound double- double, his second of the campaign.
Doug McDermott drilled a 3-pointer with 49 seconds to go, giving Creighton a 64-63 lead, and then Austin Chatman went 4-of-4 at the free-throw line to allow Creighton to survive against Butler. McDermott scored a game-high 26 points and Will Artino added 11 points and 10 rebounds as the only other player in double figures.
McDermott (25.3 ppg, 7 rpg) is used to carrying the Bluejays and hitting big shots. The two-time All-American appears to be well on his way to another selection this season, as he is second in the nation in scoring, with game- winning shots against Saint Joseph's and St. John's on his resume' this year. Ethan Wragge (11.2 ppg), who drained eight triples against Villanova earlier this season, is the only other player averaging in double figures. Chatman (7.5 ppg, 4.2 apg) makes up for a lack of scoring with his skills as a distributor. All told, Creighton leads the Big East in assists (18.1 apg) and field goal percentage (.489), while ranking second in scoring (80 ppg).