Omaha, NE (SportsNetwork.com) - With their second straight Big East Conference crown in tow, the fourth-ranked Villanova Wildcats will try to keep the momentum going as they visit the Creighton Bluejays on Tuesday night.
Villanova took care of business at Xavier over the weekend, coming from behind to claim a 78-66 victory. As a result, coach Jay Wright's club improved to 27-2 on the season, and its 14-2 league ledger has it well ahead of second- place Butler (21-8, 11-5 Big East) as the final week of the regular season begins. The Wildcats, who close things out this Saturday against St. John's in Philadelphia, have won their last 10 games, including five in a row on the road.
Creighton, which dropped a 71-50 decision at Villanova earlier this season to fall four games behind in the all-time series (6-2), enters this fray at 13-16 overall and just 4-12 in conference. The Bluejays, who recently gave head coach Greg McDermott his 400th career win in a 75-62 triumph at DePaul on Feb. 24, are fresh off a 67-66 defeat at Seton Hall this past Saturday, continuing the trend of alternating wins and losses over the last eight games. Creighton is just 2-5 in its last seven home games.
Trailing 40-33 at halftime against Xavier this past Saturday, Wright preached to his guys about dialing up the intensity and that's just what they did as they scored 45 points in the second stanza compared to only 26 for the Musketeers in pulling out the double-digit road win. Dylan Ennis scored 16 points, while Ryan Arcidiacono hit for 15, Kris Jenkins 14 and Daniel Ochefu 10 for the Wildcats, who wound up going 13-of-29 from 3-point range, with the first three players on the scoring chart accounting for 11 treys. Another key factor in the game was the 20 points Villanova scored off 14 Xavier turnovers.
Villanova's balanced offensive attack, which sees six players averaging at least 8.9 ppg, results in the team putting up a Big East-best 75.7 ppg. The 'Cats have also been on top of things defensively as well, yielding a mere 61.0 ppg to rank second just a tenth of a point behind Butler (60.9 ppg). VU is the top 3-point shooting team in the league (.389), while also sitting atop the conference leaderboard in turnover margin (+3.34) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4). Hilliard (14.4 ppg) and Arcidiacono (10.4 ppg, 3.7 apg) are the only two players currently averaging double figures in scoring, although JayVaughn Pinkston (9.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Josh Hart (9.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Ennis (9.2 ppg, 3.5 apg) could still conceivably get there if they finish the season strong.
Austin Chatman nailed five 3-pointers en route to 23 points, but that effort went for naught as Creighton fell by a single point at Seton Hall over the weekend. Geoffrey Groselle and Devin Brooks each contributed 11 points for the Bluejays, who shot just 40.6 percent from the floor, while making good on 8- of-23 long-range launches. They were just 6-of-8 at the foul line as well. By contrast, the Pirates drained 46.6 percent of their total shots, which included a 5-of-11 showing beyond the arc, and they logged a 41-31 rebounding advantage.
Despite shooting a woeful 36.4 percent from the field and only 29.5 percent out on the perimeter, Chatman is averaging 11.0 ppg as the only player on the roster averaging in double figures. Creighton is the worst shooting team in the Big East (.414), and that results in a scoring average of just 67 ppg, which ranks it ninth. The Bluejays are the second-best free-throw shooting team in the league (.735), and their defensive performance has them tied for fifth in the league with St. John's, both yielding 66.7 ppg. The 'Jays are worst in the Big East in guarding the arc (.389), and next-to-last in overall field goal percentage defense (.437). They are also last in steals (4.3 spg), blocked shots (2.3 bpg) and turnover margin (-1.14).