Styles make fights. And sometimes they make beatings. That’s about the best way to explain what happened to No. 6 Villanova on Sunday, as their attempts to defend Doug McDermott and No. 18 Creighton once again fell short of the mark.
Creighton shot 64.2% from the field and 9-for-15 from beyond the arc in their 101-80 victory, completing a sweep of the regular season series with the Bluejays putting up some incredible offensive numbers in the process. In the first meeting Villanova fell victim to a deluge of three-pointers, with Ethan Wragge tying a school record by making nine. When a team hits 21 three-pointers and scores 65.6% of its points on the shot, taking away those looks will be a priority in the rematch.
Villanova tried, not trapping or pressing as much as they did in the first meeting. The goal of this was to remain in position to limit Creighton’s looks from beyond the arc, and the Bluejays attempted just 15 three-pointers as a result. But this resulted in other problems, most notably Creighton’s Doug McDermott. McDermott scored Creighton’s first 11 points of the game, finishing the contest with 39 on 13-for-17 shooting from the field (9-for-9 FT).
During the game McDermott passed Larry Bird on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list, and afterward Villanova head coach Jay Wright was effusive in his praise of the player few opponents seem to have an answer for.
“I think he’s as complete a player, and I do not use that term loosely, as complete a player with size as I’ve ever seen,” Wright stated. “6-8, 6-9, there’s nothing he can’t do. He can take you off the dribble, he’s tough as hell guarding… he rebounds, he moves without the ball, he seals. He’s the best post player we’ve played against, and he’s the best perimeter player and maybe one of the best passers.”
And with Villanova doing all it could to take away the three-point line Creighton was able to attack inside of the arc via the dribble and the pass, scoring 44 points in the paint. By comparison, the Bluejays scored just 18 points in the paint in the first meeting. Simply put, whenever Villanova was able to take away one area Creighton simply went elsewhere for its points and with great success.
Villanova’s three worst defensive performances of the season all came in losing efforts, with Creighton better than 1.4 points per possession in both meetings. Are there areas where the Wildcats could stand to improve in the aftermath of Sunday’s defeat? Yes, with their failure to keep Creighton out of the paint being something Villanova will need to address ahead of Tuesday’s game at Providence.
Also of note was Ryan Arcidiacono’s quiet day, as he scored just five points on 1-for-4 shooting. As a team Villanova was solid offensively, shooting 46% from the field and making 11 of its 22 attempts from beyond the arc. But the Wildcats can’t afford quiet nights from Arcidiacono in games of this magnitude if they’re to make a run in the NCAA tournament.
Villanova’s two games against Creighton were more about the match-ups than anything else. Regardless of what Villanova attempted to do defensively, Creighton still managed to put points on the board and at an incredibly high rate of efficiency as well. If there’s a third meeting Villanova will need to figure out a way to defend Creighton. But the good thing for the Wildcats is that they won’t run into many teams as explosive offensively as the Bluejays.