Villanova cruised past Creighton Wednesday night, 75-41, giving coach Jay Wright his 500th with the Wildcats, as he became the first coach in program history to reach the milestone. Junior guard Justin Moore led the game in scoring with 22 points. Graduate forward Jermaine Samuels was close behind with 18 points of his own.
“Really good defensive effort tonight, I was proud of our guys,” Wright said. “Justin Moore was incredible, he played the whole first half with Collin [Gillespie] in foul trouble, he guarded [Ryan] Hawkins, he had 22 points, he was unbelievable.”
Moore and the ‘Cats’ defense limited Hawkins, Creighton’s senior forward and leading scorer, to zero points throughout the matchup; his first scoreless game this season. Creighton finished with 16 turnovers, protecting their possessions slightly better in the second half.
The Wildcats were one point from sophomore forward Eric Dixon away from all five starters having double figures on the night, while the Bluejays only had one player, senior guard Alex O’Connell, record ten or more points.
The Bluejays were cold from three, converting just three of their 24 attempts from beyond the arc. In the matchup in Omaha on Dec. 17, which the Bluejays won, 79-59, Creighton hit on nine of its 23 three-point shots. The Wildcats drilled eight threes on 34.8% shooting from distance, a 17% increase from their last matchup against the Bluejays.
The game started as a back-and-forth battle, with neither team building a lead larger than three in the first ten minutes of the opening half. Gillespie, a graduate guard, was sidelined after recording his second foul in the tenth minute and only played for eight minutes in the first half.
Moore and Samuels picked up the scoring in Gillespie’s absence, combining for 23 points in the first half. The Bluejays turned the ball over ten times in the opening period, but the ‘Cats’ offense was only able to turn that into ten points. Villanova went on a run to close the first half, outscoring the Bluejays 13-2 over the final seven minutes of the frame. The halftime scoreline stood 36-22 in favor of the ‘Cats, despite Wright’s squad having zero bench points, as well as no points from this season’s leading scorer Gillespie.
The second half continued the themes of the last 10 minutes of the first, as the Wildcats outscored the Bluejays by 20. The lead in the second half reached as much as 35, as Moore continued his scoring tear, scoring nine points in the final 20 minutes, including a personal 7-0 run to start the second half. After a slow start, Gillespie was able to get going late, finishing with 11 points in a season-low 24 minutes.
Samuels finished with seven rebounds, leading the ‘Cats, and as a team, Villanova pulled down 11 offensive rebounds and converted them into 28 points. The team also recorded seven steals, with freshman guard Jordan Longino and Dixon tying for the team lead with two apiece.
The Wildcats travel to Chicago next to take on the DePaul Blue Demons on Jan. 8. The game will be televised at 2 P.M. on Fox Sports 1. After a two-game road trip, Villanova’s next home game is on Jan. 16 against the Butler Bulldogs at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.