No. 19 Creighton will continue its challenging late-season schedule when it battles Villanova on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
The Bluejays (18-10, 12-5 Big East) have dropped two of their last three games — 94-86 in double overtime to then No. 24 Providence on Feb. 14 and 73-71 to No. 10 Marquette on Tuesday. In between, they beat St. John’s, 77-67.
Creighton held an eight-point lead at halftime against Marquette but couldn’t hold on when Tyler Kolek made the game-winning basket with 29 seconds remaining.
Baylor Scheierman led the Bluejays with 18 points and 13 rebounds, Ryan Nembhard added 16 points and Ryan Kalkbrenner had 12. Kalkbrenner needs six points to reach 1,000 for his career.
Creighton struggled with costly turnovers, especially with nine in the second half. Nembhard made five of them.
“Nothing really changed,” Nembhard said of Marquette’s defense. “They picked up their intensity a little bit, but we’re just being careless with the ball. … Just making dumb mistakes.”
Despite two frustrating losses to ranked teams, there’s no time to wallow for the Bluejays with the regular season winding down.
The conference tournament and NCAA Tournament still remain.
“Immediately,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said of how quickly the team must shake off the losses and prepare for Villanova. “That was the message to the team. We have a lot to play for yet this year.
“… We’re also playing for seeding in the Big East tournament, seeding in the NCAA Tournament. All those things are really important.”
Villanova, meanwhile, will look to move above .500 with another win over a ranked opponent.
The Wildcats (14-14, 8-9) went on the road to defeat No. 16 Xavier, 64-63, on Tuesday.
About 11 months after suffering a ruptured Achilles in the Elite Eight against Houston, Justin Moore scored a season-high 25 points.
Moore has only been back for eight games, which makes his performance even more remarkable.
“What Justin has done is amazing,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. “He was great tonight. A lot of people may have told him to just shut it down for the season. But he wanted to be out there with his brothers and obviously he makes a big difference for our team.”
Villanova fell behind by 13 but wouldn’t wilt thanks in large part to Moore.
“It’s a big win for us,” Moore said. “Not just that we got the win, but the way we won. We were down, we persevered and came back. We played tough.”
The Wildcats advanced to the Final Four last season before Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright retired after more than 500 victories and two national championships. Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels graduated and highly touted freshman Angelo Brizzi announced recently that he was transferring to Davidson.
Neptune, a longtime Villanova assistant now in his first season, appears to have the team moving in the right direction.
And it starts with defense.
“I thought we did a good job of getting stops in the second half,” Neptune said. “Xavier punched us in the mouth over the first five or six minutes of the game but we kept battling.”
–Field Level Media