By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS)—Creighton’s wrath had to fall on someone’s head. Consequently, it rained threes on Villanova Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Entering this week, Creighton had just been dropped from the top 25 by AP. Villanova saw its status upped to No. 4 in the country coming into the Big East showdown.
Creighton wanted to make a point that it belongs with the nation’s best. The Bluejays did, by making three, after three, after three, after three—and surged out to nearly a 30-point lead halfway into the opening half in cruising to a 96-68 victory over the Wildcats—and it wasn’t even that close.
The loss was Villanova’s first in the Big East, dropping the Wildcats to 16-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big East, while Creighton made an emphatic statement in improving to 16-3 and 6-1 in the Big East.
It’s the most points the Wildcats gave up since yielding 103 in a 103-90 loss to Georgetown on Feb. 6, 2010, at Georgetown.
National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott scored a quiet 23, but the Wildcats found out Creighton is made up of a little more than McDermott.
Senior forward Ethan Wragge pummeled Villanova with a game-high 27 points on 9 for 14 shooting—all from three-point range. Wragge must like something about Philly schools, because his previous game-high for treys was against St. Joe’s, when he dropped seven on the Hawks back on Nov. 16.
It started off pretty bad for the Wildcats and got worse. Creighton came out and made its first nine shots—all three-pointers—and at one time led by 47-19, with 7:12 left in the first half on a trey by Creighton’s Isaiah Zierden.
“They hit their first nine shots, right?” incredulous Wildcats’ coach Jay Wright asked. “I don’t recall seeing anyone ever doing that. When you let a good-shooting team get hot, you’re in trouble. We just weren’t ourselves. We’ll learn from this. It’s still early in the season. We’ve put a lot of good games together. We had an off-night, but Creighton had a lot to do with that.”
In the first half, Villanova gradually pecked away at the huge Creighton lead. The Wildcats began swaying the game more to their liking, catching Creighton in transition, taking advantage of their speed. Villanova went on a 13-0 surge to get within 15, 47-32, before Creighton’s Wragge nailed his eighth trey of the half.
While all the focus was on McDermott, justifiably so, since he’s a one of the nation’s best scorers, Wragge seemed to fall through the cracks of the Wildcat defense.
Wragge was the thorn that punctured the Wildcats from the outset, hitting his first seven shots—all treys.
Creighton went into halftime leading 50-35. At one point in the opening half, the Bluejays made 12 of 17 from the floor—and 11 of 14 from beyond the arc.
With 1:07 left in the half, a JayVaughn Pinkston free throw brought Villanova to within 52-39, the closest the Wildcats would get.
That was it.
As time was winding down with 10:35 left to play in the game, a smattering of boos greeted the Wildcats during a timeout. With 5:33 left to play, Creighton held its biggest advantage, 92-51. Then it became a matter of whether or not the Bluejays would reach 100.
In the aftermath, all anyone could do was shake their heads as Bruce Springsteen’s “Oh, I’m on my fire” echoed throughout the mostly vacant Wells Fargo Center. “The Boss” was no doubt talking about Creighton Monday night.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)