'Cats Rally Late for Crucial Big East Victory

Trailing by as many as 14 during the first half, Villanova salvaged a two-game road trip with a second half surge, beating Creighton, 64-59, on Tuesday night in Omaha. The victory sends the ‘Cats home 1-1 on a difficult road swing that also included a visit to Marquette. The team now sits at 11-3 on the season and 2-1 in the Big East. 

Collin Gillespie continued to impress offensively, tallying a game high 24 points on a remarkably efficient 8-10 from the floor. Freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was also a key contributor, grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds in the contest, including three on the offensive glass, and dishing out a team best three assists. 

Playing from behind for most of the game, the Wildcats did not take their first lead until Gillespie buried his fourth triple of the game to put the ‘Cats in front, 55-54 with 3:39 remaining in the second half. That advantage lasted all of 20 seconds, as Creighton’s Mitch Ballock returned the favor with a three-pointer of his own, giving the edge back to the Blue Jays. However, a three from sophomore Saddiq Bey on the next possession would grant ‘Nova control for good, as a pair of free throws each from Gillespie and Justin Moore eventually sealed the victory. 

The Wildcats struggled offensively during the first half as the team connected on just 8 of its 29 field goal attempts in the opening twenty minutes. Aided by improved shot quality, ‘Nova found much more success after the intermission, going 15-32 from the floor. 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the night was Villanova’s defense, which slowed a typically potent Creighton offense by holding the Blue Jays to 41.5% shooting overall, and just 21.4% from deep. Coming into the contest, the Creighton had been averaging 78.3 points per game, a mark which they fell well short of on Tuesday. The Blue Jay’s leading scorer on the season, Marcus Zegarowski, also performed well below his offensive standard. The sophomore, who entered play averaging just over 18 points per game, managed only eight versus the Wildcats’ defense. In fact, sophomore Christian Bishop, who recorded 16 points in the game, was the only Blue Jay to score in double figures. 

Villanova will now begin a stretch of four consecutive home games by facing Georgetown on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.