Villanova coach Jay Wright said it was like a broken record.
Same matchup, same result — practically.
The last time Creighton met Villanova, the Bluejays poured in a Big East-record 21 3-pointers and cruised to a 28-point victory in Philadelphia.
Bluejays forward Doug McDermott let the Wildcats know immediately Sunday night that no revenge would be achieved, leading No. 18 Creighton to a 101-80 victory over No. 6 Villanova at CenturyLink Center Omaha.
“I didn’t think we could play much better than we did at Villanova,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, “but I’m not sure that we didn’t play better today. We didn’t have the crazy shooting night from the 3-point line, but the other parts of the game were really good.”
Doug McDermott, who entered the game as the nation’s second-leading scorer (25.3 points per game), produced 39 points and collected a game-high seven rebounds. His 22 first-half points let Creighton build a 50-37 lead, allowing the Bluejays (21-4, 11-2 Big East) to cruise to victory and stake their claim atop the conference.
The 6-foot-8 senior forward buried a corner 3-pointer with 13:23 to go, passing Larry Bird and moving into 13th place on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list.
“It’s hard to explain right now,” Doug McDermott said of passing Bird. “It’s pretty crazy, that’s one of my idols. I was telling someone after the game, imagine if he had the 3-point line and stayed four years — he’d be way ahead of me.”
Greg McDermott, Doug’s father, added, “It’s really hard to believe. This has been pretty cool for our family. To watch him continue to move up this ladder, doing it the way he’s doing it, and passing some of the people that he’s passed, I think it would be hard for any father who grew up in that era to believe that their son is mentioned in the same sentence with somebody who is arguably one of the best players of all-time.”
McDermott shot an efficient 13 of 17 from the field, including 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. The rest of his Bluejays teammates followed suit, as Creighton shot 34-for-53 (64.2 percent).
Villanova (22-3, 10-2) did its best to take away the 3-point arc for most of the game, as the Bluejays hit nine 3-pointers, 12 fewer than in the previous meeting. Creighton made them pay for it, dominating the inside game for a 44-22 advantage in the paint.
With Creighton’s best 3-point shooters possessing the size that they do, Villanova was forced to send its best interior defenders out on the perimeter, opening up driving lanes that the Bluejays exploited.
“They’re just a tough matchup for us,” Wright said. “Our style of play and their style of play kind of leads to these kind of games, and we got to find an answer if we face them again.”
Villanova was led by senior guard James Bell, who scored 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting (5-of-6 from 3-point range) before fouling out with 6:11 to go after being called for a flagrant-1 foul.
McDermott reeled off his team’s first 11 points, knocking down two 3-pointers as Creighton jumped out to an 11-6 lead.
A 3-pointer from Bell got Villanova to within 35-31 with 5:31 to play in the first half. From that point, though, Creighton finished the half on a 15-6 run. The Wildcats never got within 10 again.
The crowd, which bought up all the tickets for this game in 15 minutes back in November, provided enough energy to make sure that Creighton kept moving forward. The Bluejays outscored Villanova 51-43 in the second half, and the lead grew to as much as 25 with 7:34 to play on a McDermott free throw.
“I live for these kind of games,” Doug McDermott said. “These are the best, especially playing against a top-10 team here in Omaha. I don’t think any of us ever thought we’d see this day. You have to get fired up for this kind of game and atmosphere.”
Creighton guard Isaiah Zierden scored 13 points and Grant Gibbs scored 11 points, and they combined to shoot 8-for-9. Guard Devin Brooks added 12 points, while guard Austin Chatman chipped in seven points and eight assists.
Bluejays forward Ethan Wragge, who hit eight first-half 3-pointers in the
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