The Villanova Wildcats took the court at Finneran Pavilion Wednesday night with a chance to make history as the first Big East team to start 10-0 in conference play since UConn did it in 1998-99. Considering the Wildcats were facing the Creighton Bluejays, down Marcus Zegarowski and leading scorer Ty-Shon Alexander, many looked at the game as one final tune-up before ‘Nova heads to Milwaukee to face Marquette in a top 15 showdown on Saturday.
Instead, we got a rock fight of a game that looked like the undermanned Bluejays could knock off the #14 Wildcats. For 40 minutes, Creighton hung with Villanova, playing through Martin Krampelj inside and shying away from three-pointers, and heading to overtime tied at 49.
Unfortunately for Creighton, Villanova got things together and ultimately pulled out a 66-59 victory. The Wildcats struggled offensively for most of the game, with Eric Paschall and Phil Booth combining for just ten points before overtime, where the two senior leaders showed why they’re two of the Big East’s best players, combining for 11 of Nova’s 17 points in the extra period.
Saddiq Bey also had one of the best games of his career, scoring a career-high 17 points and grabbing a couple big offensive rebounds in overtime to extend possessions and get Nova on the scoreboard. While all the freshman hype coming into the season was on Jahvon Quinerly, Bey has been the Wildcats’ best freshman all year long.
While Krampelj’s strong play was noticeable in his double-double effort, Davion Mintz made the most of his career-high 45 minutes and led all scorers with 19 points.
Despite the losing effort, this is definitely a step in the right direction for Creighton. To be competitive in a road game without two of their four best players is certainly significant, and now at 13-10 with a very winnable few games coming up, this is something the Bluejays could use to inspire them down the stretch. It will also help if Alexander returns from his injury sooner rather than later.
As noted above, a showdown with Marquette awaits Villanova on Saturday. Creighton will also return to action Saturday as they head to Newark to face Seton Hall.