PHILADELPHIA– The 2019-20 College Basketball season has been wacky to say the least.
So it comes as no shock that #8 Villanova lost to unranked Creighton by a final score of 76-61 at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.
“I think Creighton deserves a lot of credit,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “They just came in here and played a better basketball game and I’ve been saying this all year, every game in this league is going to be a battle and if you don’t play your best, you’re going to get beat, we weren’t that bad, they just really played well, I got to give them credit, I said this when we’ve won some games we’re still a team that’s learning and growing and they just played a better all-around basketball game than us.”
What does come as a shock is the offensive output displayed by Villanova in the first half. The Wildcats shot 36 percent from the field and went 3-for-14 from deep (21 percent).
It wasn’t until around the end of the half that the Wildcats started to show some life offensively but for much of that first frame, the Wildcats could not buy a shot, and the Blue Jays were lighting it up, which ultimately put Villanova in a 35-23 hole at the break.
“They hit a lot of the shots today that they missed the last time we played them,” Wright said in regards to a 64-59 Villanova win over Creighton in January. “I don’t think we were that bad but in the first half, because we were having a difficult time scoring, they were getting out in transition a lot more and it’s harder to match up on them in transition.”
There aren’t many instances where you see Villanova get “out-toughed”, but on Saturday, it was clear who the “tougher” team was in the first half as well as the entire game.
“They just were more physical, more committed,” Wright said. “Every screen you run, drive you run, you drive the ball, you come off the screen, one guy’s going to be tougher than the other and to start the game, they were just really committed, really tougher, then you spot a team like that 12 at halftime, you’re going to be on trouble and they’re a really good team.”
In the second half, Villanova picked it up on both ends, cutting the Creighton lead to as little as three with 10:22 to go in the second half. But then Creighton rattled off an 11-2 run spanning just over four minutes.
“In Omaha, they kind of Nova’d us.” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said. “We got the lead, we led and they just kept grinding and grinding and you knew they were going to throw some more punches and we didn’t respond to that very well, and today to start the second half, they did what they do, I knew there was a run in them but they only scored on five of their last twenty possessions, so our guys locked in, got to some shooters, and we fought on the glass, we’re small but our guys have a lot of fight in them.”
While Villanova shot 27 percent from three (7-26), Creighton shot an even 50 percent against the Wildcats (11-22) including a 5-of-7 from Mitch Ballock and a 4-of-6 from Ty-Shon Alexander.
“They did a great job defensively, they hit big timely shots, they executed well, they handled our pressure,” Wright said. “I just think they played a better basketball game than us today and I just think that’s the way it’s going to be in this league, obviously I’m not happy with how we played but I got to give them more credit than I am disappointed with us.”
Leading the scoring for Villanova were guards Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore, who both finished with 18 points apiece. Creighton had four in double digits, led by Denzel Mahoney who finished with 21 points.
Villanova heads out on the road for their next game on Wednesday at always-tough Hinkle Fieldhouse against Butler. The Wildcats won their last contest against the Bulldogs at Finneran Pavilion on January 21 by a final score of 76-61.
Following Butler, the Wildcats come back to the Wells Fargo Center in a heavyweight battle against Seton Hall.
How the Wildcats handle this adversity is yet to be determined, but going forward, whether it’s a win or a loss, every game is a learning experience for this young Wildcats team.
“Everything in your loss is disappointing, but it’s a learning experience for this team,” Wright said. “You have to know how to do that every night and that’s what great teams do, average teams play tough one night, don’t play the other night, sometimes when you’re young you have to lose a game to know that, I wish we didn’t, it’s kind of our job as coaches to make sure we don’t have to lose a game to know that.”