Senior guard James Bell led the Wildcats with 18 points, making five 3-pointers. (Rachel Bleier/The Villanovan)
by Larry Flynn
The Villanova Wildcats were unable to avenge their previous loss to the Creighton Bluejays, and were blown out again, this time 101-80 in Omaha, Neb.
It was the Doug McDermott show for the Bluejays, at the prolific scoring senior forward tied his career high with 39 points on 13-17 shooting from the field, 9-9 from the free throw line and 4-6 from the three-point line.
McDermott passed Larry Bird on the all-time NCAA scoring list with his big-time performance on Sunday.
“They’ve got the best player in the country, and he makes everybody better around him,” Head Coach Jay Wright said. “They’re just a tough matchup for us.”
McDermott started off the game on fire, scoring Creighton’s first 11 points on two 3-pointers, an and-one and a nice curl cut to the basket.
For Villanova, sophomore forward Daniel Ochefu scored the first two baskets for the Wildcats.
The Bluejays looked to gain some momentum early, but were slowed down by a pair of offensive fouls with around 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
Sophomore guard Dylan Ennis drained a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two, but the Wildcats failed to contest in semi transition the following play.
Unfortunately, these types of sloppy defensive plays became a recurring theme for Villanova.
Ochefu continued his solid performance with a monster block with just over five minutes to play in the first half. Over the following five minutes, however, Creighton would begin to pull away, going up 15 with just a few minutes left in the first half.
Senior forward James Bell showed his leadership by hitting two 3-pointers to keep the game close, reminiscent of his performance against Iowa in the Battle for Atlantis championship game.
Unfortunately, Bell’s threes were not enough to keep the game within single digits going into halftime, and the Blue Jays led by 13 at the half.
Creighton shot 6-9 from beyond the 3-point line in the first half, and McDermott was on his way to a big night with 22 points on 8-11 shooting.
Creighton started off the second half slow, and Villanova began to go to junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston in the paint, something that didn’t seem to be in the game plan to start the game.
Pinkston had a nice pass to Ochefu on a slip cut from the foul line in the first few minutes of the second half, but the Wildcats didn’t continue to go to Pinkston on the block.
Instead, the Bluejays took advantage and kept the lead in double-digits. Senior guard Grant Gibbs scored five straight points on a three pointer followed by a dunk on a wide-open drive. Again, the Villanova defense struggled to stop the penetration of Creighton, and McDermott continued showering threes and step-back jumpers over ’Nova defenders.
With 13:22 left to go in the game, McDermott curled around a high screen to drain an off-balanced 3-pointer. On this shot, McDermott passed former Boston Celtic and all-time great NBA legend Larry Bird on the all-time NCAA scoring list. As McDermott pointed out in his post-game interview, Bird did not play with a 3-point line for his whole time in college, significantly decreasing his total point output. Regardless, McDermott’s feat of passing Bird is extremely impressive.
With about 13 minutes to go, the Wildcats changed their defensive scheme, going into their classic zone press. Instead of cutting into the lead, the Bluejays went up by 19 with just under 12 minutes to play.
A step-back jumper gave McDermott 31 points, his ninth 30-plus point game of the season. From that jumper on, the Bluejays flew away with the victory. The game got chippy with a few minutes when Bell was called for a flagrant foul and senior guard Tony Chennault was called for a foul lightly pushing McDermott out of bound.
Ultimately, the Wildcats just couldn’t contain the potent Creighton offense. Again, Villanova struggled to match up with the Creighton guards and shooters in semi-transition. Although complementary players like junior forward Ethan Wragge didn’t play as well as they did in the Wildcat’s earlier matchup with the Bluejays, it was Doug McDermott who dominated.
Head Coach Jay Wright mixed-and-matched defenders on McDermott, putting mostly Bell, Pinkston and even a bit of Ochefu on the star forward.
Unfortunately, it didn’t matter who Wright put on McDermott. Still, the Villanova defense was rather lackluster, allowing for easy penetration to the rim frequently.