The Villanova Wildcats fell to the Creighton Bluejays 86-70 on Saturday evening to fall to 13-3 on the season and 8-2 in Big East play. Sophomore Justin Moore led the way for Villanova with 21 while going 4-9 from three, and grabbing three rebounds. Senior Jermaine Samuels continued his hot streak scoring 16 points, shooting 3-4 from three and grabbing six rebounds. Junior Brandon Slater was the only other Wildcat in double figures, scoring 11 points, his third time in double figures this year.
Creighton put on a shooting clinic, ending shooting just under 60% from the field, although that number was over 70% for much of the game. The star man was Preseason Big East Player of the Year Marcus Zegarowski, who put up a season-high 25 points. Mitch Ballock shot 75% from behind the arc, including a run of three straight threes that put the game out of reach, ending with 20 on the day. Christian Bishop had a double double as well, with 16 points and ten rebounds.
From the beginning, everyone knew this was going to be a battle of pace. Jay Wright’s Wildcats are the staple child for methodical, calculated shots and patient decision making to run out the clock and slowly burn away the morale of the opposing team. The Creighton Blue Jays are the opposite: fast, finesse, and offensively aggressive when improvising. Creighton won this battle from the very minute the game started.
Zegarowski, who some say is a runaway for Big East Conference Player of the Year, single handedly controlled the tempo of this game. He made his threes early on; he was able to use his high offensive IQ to facilitate cuts for his teammates and find them correctly without any second guessing or hesitation. Those led to layups but especially some notable lob passes to Bishop and Ballock.
Villanova was forced to play at a style and speed that is not accustomed to their character or playing to their strengths. The only way that Villanova could play them is in a shootout style contest where they cannot make any mistakes. And the Wildcats made plenty of mistakes. Collin Gillespie started off the night 0/4 from the field and finished with only eight points. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Caleb Daniels also finished in single digit scoring.
This will be a learning experience going forward and a reality check on the elevated level of play and trueness to identity needed to compete with the elite teams of the country.
Villanova’s next scheduled game will take place next Saturday against Connecticut at the Finneran Pavilion at 1 PM.