No. 18 Creighton beats 6th-ranked Villanova 101-80
OMAHA, Neb. (AP)
Doug McDermott matched his season high with 39 points and passed Larry Bird for 13th on the Division I career scoring chart, and the 18th-ranked Bluejays won 101-80 on Sunday to move into first place in the Big East, a half-game ahead of the No. 6 Wildcats.
Their 21-point victory came less than a month after they hammered Villanova by 28 in Philadelphia on the strength of a record 3-point shooting performance.
''I didn't think we could play much better than we did at Villanova,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. ''But I'm not sure 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.''
Villanova coach Jay Wright said getting blown out again was frustrating because he and his staff came up with a much different defensive plan. The Wildcats didn't double-team McDermott as much, and they denied the ball to 3-point marksman Ethan Wragge.
McDermott did his thing, as usual, and Creighton's bench produced 39 points.
''They've got the best player in the country, and he makes everybody better around him,'' Wright said. ''They're just a tough matchup for us. Our style of play and their style of play kind of leads to these kinds of games. We've got to find the answer if we face them again.''
The Bluejays (21-4, 11-2) beat the same ranked opponent twice in the same season for the first time in program history. They also won their 16th straight at home, matching their longest streak since moving into the CenturyLink Center in 2003.
McDermott went over 30 points for the ninth time this season and 23rd time in his career. He took over the national scoring lead, at 25.9 points a game. He passed Bird, the Indiana State great of the late 1970s, on the NCAA's scoring list with his fourth 3-pointer with 13:23 left.
''It's pretty crazy. That's one of my idols,'' he said. ''Imagine if (Bird) had the 3-point line and he stayed four years. He would be way ahead of me. It's really cool just to be in that category with some of those guys.''
The senior forward left to an ovation with 1:43 left, embracing his coach and father before sitting down. He now has 2,863 career points.
''Doug was obviously incredible,'' Greg McDermott said. ''He has a way of stepping up for these games, and today was certainly an example of that.''
Isaiah Zierden had 13 points, Devin Brooks added 12 and Grant Gibbs had 11 for the Bluejays, who shot a season-best 64.2 percent. Their previous high was 56.9 percent in their 96-68 win at Villanova on Jan. 20.
Wragge, who made nine 3-pointers and had a career-high 27 points in the teams' first meeting, didn't get off a shot until the third minute of the second half and didn't make a field goal until 7:37 remained. Villanova mimicked other recent Creighton opponents in denying the senior forward the ball, and he finished with five points.
Villanova had won six straight since its loss to the Bluejays last month. The Wildcats never led after the first minute.
The start of the game wasn't quite like it was in Philadelphia last month. That night, Wragge was 7 for 7 on 3-pointers in the first 7 minutes and Creighton ran off to a 28-point victory over then-No. 4 Villanova after making a Big East-record 21 shots from behind the arc.
McDermott scored Creighton's first 11 points Sunday. He made two 3s, converted a three-point play after spinning to the basket for a left-handed layup and scored off Gibbs' pass through the lane to the delight of the sellout crowd of 18,797.
Villanova was the highest-ranked team to play Creighton in Omaha since fourth-ranked DePaul visited in December 1983.
''I live for these kinds of games,'' 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've got to get fired up for this kind of game and atmosphere. It was a great start, and that carried the momentum for our team the rest of the game.''