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No. 12 Creighton glad to stay home for Big East opener vs. Villanova

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No. 12 Creighton is set to open Big East play against longtime conference power Villanova at home Wednesday in Omaha, Neb., where conditions have been kind.

Creighton (9-2) is 6-0 at home this season, including an 85-82 victory over Alabama on Saturday after the Crimson Tide entered as one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation at 93.2 points per game.

The Bluejays’ three-headed monster of Trey Alexander (22 points), Baylor Scheierman (20) and Ryan Kaklbrenner (19) led the way once again. Kalkbrenner’s production came despite missing the final 13 minutes of the first half with a sprained ankle, then playing through obvious discomfort in the second half.

The 7-foot-1 inside presence has been slowed at practice this week while receiving treatment. Kalkbrenner is listed as probable against Villanova.

“I didn’t see the replay until late Saturday night and he really rolled that thing over,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said this week. “For him to come back (and play), the way it still looks is pretty amazing that he was able to accomplish and be as effective as he was.”

Scheierman leads Creighton in both points (18.5) and rebounds (7.2) per game. Kalkbrenner is scoring 16.1 points with 6.8 rebounds and a team-best 25 blocked shots, while Alexander is averaging 15.6 points with 6.2 rebounds.

The victory helped to take some of the sting out of a 79-64 defeat to UNLV on a “neutral” court last Wednesday in Henderson, Nev. In neutral-site and true road games this season, the Bluejays are a combined 3-2.

Gathering as much positive momentum as possible will be key for Creighton, who not only will face No. 6 Marquette next on Dec. 30, but must do so away from home.

Creighton will retire the uniform number of former star Doug McDermott — son of the coach — before Wednesday’s game.

Villanova (7-4) has not played since Dec. 9 when it earned a 65-56 victory over UCLA at home to end a three-game losing streak.

After losses to Saint Joseph’s, Drexel and Kansas State, the latter in overtime by a single point, Villanova used a late 17-4 scoring burst to get past UCLA. Tyler Burton was just 3-of-12 from the field for the Wildcats but scored 18 points thanks to 11 made free throws. Burton added 10 rebounds.

Eric Dixon, who leads Villanova with 13.6 points per game, scored just six points against UCLA after going 2-of-7 from the field. The Wildcats won despite shooting 32.8 percent overall against a high-pressure Bruins defense.

Now comes a road game against a Creighton defense that held high-scoring Alabama to 4-for-22 shooting from deep.

“These are the kinds of environments we prepare for every day,” Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said. “If you’re going to be a good team, you have to be able to play well in settings like this.”

Justin Moore, who is Villanova’s second-leading scorer at 13.3 points, did not play in the most recent game because of a sprained right knee. Moore remains day-to-day and will be a game-time decision Wednesday.

Creighton defeated Villanova in two of the three meetings between the teams last season, with the Bluejays earning an 87-74 victory over the Wildcats in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.

–Field Level Media

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