A dimly-lit Dunkin Donuts Center played host to perhaps the most disappointing performance of the Creighton Bluejays 2013-14 season. The Providence Friars bullied, battered and beat down the top-ranked offensive team in the nation by most metrics on Saturday evening. As the second half wound down, the game was not particularly close.
Sure, the Bluejays scratched and clawed their way back. The end result, an 81-68 defeat, looked more respectable on the stat sheet. Any one of the 11,026 would probably tell you different though. They would say that Creighton simply got smacked.
And so, the road was paved for Creighton. They would have to make a quick turnaround, because less than 48 hours later, an even taller and tougher task was in their sights.
Waiting 277 miles down I-95 was the No. 4 team in America; the proverbial leader of the BIG EAST pack; and a true "Beast of the East" that would make the late Bam Bam Bigelow proud. The Villanova Wildcats and the Wells Fargo Center were awaiting the Bluejays, who needed to spontaneously suffer from short-term memory in order to put the Providence pummeling behind them.
Just a few moments into the game, one thing became abundantly clear to Villanova, to the students, the alumni, the fans, Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery, the FOX Sports crew, and the nation watching on television:
Creighton's newly acquired short-term memory was in full effect.
Amidst the mackerel sky of white Villanova t-shirts emerged a deep blue cloud that soared over South Philadelphia. What came of that cloud was a downpour of 3-pointers that the deep, distinguished world of BIG EAST basketball has ever seen. Literally.
Thanks to a BIG EAST hoops record 21 3-pointers, the Creighton Bluejays levied a beat down of their own. On the way to their 16th victory of the season, Creighton pasted the No. 4 Villanova Wildcats 96-68.
Sure, you might have heard about Doug McDermott. The Bret Hart of Creighton basketball; the frontrunner for the National Player of the Year Award; and the pride of Ames, Iowa whose accomplishments run deep through the annals of college basketball. Even on a night where McDermott leapt past "The Admiral" David Robinson on the all-time scoring list, he was not the story.
That honor and distinction goes to Ethan Wragge. Wragge, Creighton's resident sharpshooter, splashed down on South Philadelphia with a bang that would make our Four Fathers proud. One after another, Wragge widened the gap, connecting on his first seven opportunities from deep. It was a clinic; child's play for the senior from Eden Prairie, Minn. whose 3-point percentage on the season now stands at an even 50 percent. And that's not based upon a small sample size, either. Wragge has taken 154 shots this season, and a mere 3.89 percent of them have been 2-point attempts.
Wragge's success trickled into the second half, as he finished with nine made buckets from the 3-point arc. The 21 3-pointers bested every 3-point showcase from the 2013 season, as three other teams had finished with 20 3-point attempts this season. The showing bested the 2010-11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and 2005-06 West Virginia Mountaineers' 20 made 3-pointers for the BIG EAST record. (Elias Sports Bureau)
Somewhere, the likes of Kevin Pittsnogle and Ben Hansbrough might be smiling.
Although he was not the story, Doug McDermott's efforts did not go unnoticed. The leader of the Bluejays dropped 23 points in 28 minutes, finishing as a +33 and shot 61.5 percent from the field. That remarkable efficiency stretched out to the perimeter, as the senior forward shot 62.5 percent from the 3-point arc on eight attempts.
Elsewhere, Jahenns Manigat continued his recent upward trending with a dazzling 19-point performance. Manigat, a native of the Canadian capital of Ottawa, missed on just one of his seven opportunities from the field, and dished out five assists. Fellow backcourt companions Austin Chatman and Devin Brooks finished with five and four points apiece, and Chatman dished out 10 assists to Brooks' four.
They say after bad performances, the losing team can grab the tape and burn it. It might instead behoove Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats to send this tape via priority shipping straight to the dumpster and take their minds off of it immediately.
For a team that was No. 4 in the country, this loss has to sting. It is one thing to get creamed, and it is entirely another to get clobbered, and at one point be down 40 points to your adversary under your own roof. Thinking of this occurring at The Pavilion could be even more harrowing, but in any event, what's done is done. Villanova should look for a way to recuperate, and obtain short-term memory as well for their upcoming contest in The Cream City against the Marquette Golden Eagles on Saturday.
Perhaps they could ask for advice from the team responsible for the sudden desire to know how to forget. Creighton's methods worked rather effectively, to put it mildly.
For Creighton, the stratosphere might truly be the limit, as opposed to simply just the sky. This otherworldly performance helped Creighton achieve a rarity: defeating a top-five team. The Bluejays were previously 2-25 when facing top-five ranked teams. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, their last win against a top-five team came back in 1970, when the Bluejays toppled the New Mexico Lobos. Now, they can add a third tally in the win column. It's still a comfortable margin in the loss column, but after this mega-sized victory, who knows what's possible and what's not?
Now, the Bluejays look to continue to take new heights. They travel back to Omaha, where the story should no longer be Peyton Manning and his audible calls at the line of scrimmage.
Creighton will now be the talk and the toast of the town, but those who party hard in January may never prosper. Staying the course is key, and the Bluejays taking aim against Georgetown on Saturday is the first step in that direction.