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Villanova uses hot start to beat Creighton

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VILLANOVA, Pa. — For the second year in a row, the first five minutes of the Villanova-Creighton matchup in Philadelphia decided the game.

Last year, it was the eight 3-pointers that the Creighton Bluejays made at the Wells Fargo Center before the first media timeout that propelled the visitors to a 28-point rout.

This time around, it was Villanova’s turn.

A 15-0 run to open the game set the tone as the fourth-ranked Villanova Wildcats led wire-to-wire for a 71-50 victory on Sunday against a Bluejays squad still looking for its first conference win of the season.

“The defensive start to that game was probably one of our better starts to the season,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We came out and just got stops.

“We’ve been slipping a little bit defensively, nothing major, just getting a little loose and losing attention to detail.”

Villanova (18-2, 5-2 Big East) maintained a double-digit advantage throughout the second half, going up by as many as 24 while not allowing Creighton to get closer than a dozen points over the final 23 minutes.

Senior guard Darrun Hilliard led Villanova with 24 points, including six 3-pointers, while junior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono added 10.

Creighton (9-12, 0-8 Big East) has now lost nine games in a row just a year after the Bluejays went 27-8 and made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Though four seniors start for head coach Gregg McDermott, it’s a roster that lost four key seniors from last year’s team, with just one starter — senior guard Austin Chatman — returning from that group.

“I certainly didn’t anticipate that we’d be in this situation,” McDermott said. “I knew had some rebuilding to do . . . not a lot of Big East experience in starting roles outside of Austin, but I wouldn’t have predicted this.”

Villanova forced 19 Creighton turnovers while giving it up just five times, a statistic that McDermott lamented afterward.

“You cannot turn the ball over 14 more times than Villanova and expect to be in the game, and that’s as simple as it gets,” he said.

Creighton senior James Milliken was the only Bluejay in double figures with 13 points, while Chatman added nine on 14 shots.

Unlike last year, when Creighton made its first nine 3-pointers of the game en route to a Big East-record 21 treys, the Wildcats were hot early from outside.

Villanova knocked down its first three 3-point attempts and opened up on a 15-0 run, holding Creighton without a bucket for the first seven-plus minutes of the contest. The visitors missed their first four shots and turned the ball over five times before finally connecting.

“We know what happened last year, but that wasn’t in our mind, we know we were coming off getting our butts kicked down at Georgetown,” Arcidiacono said, referring Villanova’s 78-58 loss at the hands of the Hoyas six days prior.

The Wildcats cooled off, though, making two of their next 10 shots as Creighton crept back to within eight points. However, a 10-0 run near the end of the half helped Villanova take a 29-14 lead into halftime.

NOTES: Creighton had to replace the all-time winningest class in the school’s history after last season. Last year’s seniors won 107 games at the school, led by current Chicago Bulls F Doug McDermott, the fifth-leading scorer in NCAA history (3,150 points). … Villanova was coming off its lowest scoring output of the season in a 78-58 loss at Georgetown on Jan. 19, after managing just 62 in a win over Penn two days prior. … Creighton sophomore G Isaiah Zierden was ruled out for the season Friday due to a partial tear of his medial collateral ligament that occurred Wednesday against Butler. He was second on the team in scoring (9.5 points per game) at the time of his injury.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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