No. 2 Villanova goes for Big East clincher

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Second-ranked Villanova will have another chance to clinch its fourth consecutive Big East regular-season championship when it hosts No. 23 Creighton in the home finale Saturday afternoon at The Pavilion.

The Wildcats (26-3, 13-3 Big East) suffered a rare loss 74-66 to No. 22 Butler on Wednesday night. Having already earned at least a share of the conference title, they can still capture the top seed in the conference tournament with a win over the Bluejays (22-6, 9-6).

Butler’s surprising victory snapped Villanova’s program-best 48-game winning streak at its 6,500-seat on-campus arena on the Main Line.

“Sometimes you come into a game and the other team plays better,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “You try everything. Our guys competed to the end. We just ran into a team that played better than us tonight.”

The game against Creighton will be the final one at The Pavilion after 31 seasons. Last week, the university’s Board of Trustees announced that a major arena renovation will begin in June. When the arena re-opens in the fall of 2018, it will be renamed the Finneran Pavilion.

Seniors Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds will be honored in a pregame ceremony. Amazingly, the trio had never lost a home game on campus until Wednesday.

Reynolds has missed the last four games with a rib injury and remains questionable.

More than that, Villanova must cut down on turnovers and scoreless stretches to get back on track.

“We’ve got to have better attention to detail,” Hart said. “It starts with me, first and foremost. That’s something we’ve got to have, better attention to detail. It starts with the seniors and trickles down.”

Creighton has won its last three games against Top 25 teams but has dropped the last five games in the series against Villanova and is 0-12 all-time against teams ranked in the top three.

The Bluejays are 1-8 all-time in true road games against teams coming off a Final Four appearance, with the only win coming on Feb. 9, 1980, when they defeated Indiana State.

Creighton has alternated wins and losses in the last six games.

Marcus Foster has scored a team-best 521 points this season, including a career-high 35 Sunday against Georgetown. In addition, Foster added five assists and five rebounds to become the first player in program history to have at least 35 points, five assists and five rebounds in the same game since Benoit Benjamin had 45 points, 16 rebounds and five assists against Indiana State on January 19, 1985.

In its most recent game, Creighton fell at home to Providence 68-66.

“We have to take care of us,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott told the Omaha World-Herald. “We’ve let some close, winnable games slip away. And we have to try to fix the reasons why that happened.”

Part of the reason is the balance of the rugged Big East.

“It was a tough one to swallow,” McDermott told the World-Herald of the loss to Providence. “But there’s a lot of those games in our league this year.”