Hilliard scores 24 to lead No. 4 Villanova over Creighton
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — After an embarrassing loss at Georgetown, Villanova’s players seethed for nearly a week and couldn’t wait to get back on the court.
They took their anger out on Creighton.
Darrun Hilliard scored a season-high 24 points to lead No. 4 Villanova to a 71-50 victory over Creighton on Sunday night.
Ryan Arcidiacono added 10 points for the Wildcats (18-2, 5-2 Big East), which rebounded from one of its worst performances of the season — a 78-58 defeat at Georgetown on Monday.
“We know we were coming off getting our butts kicked,” Arcidiacono said. “We were eager to get on the court. It was in our minds. We know how to play tough and for us not to do that against Georgetown really was eating at us.”
In that loss to the Hoyas, the Wildcats had season lows for points and assists (8), and were one off a season high with 18 turnovers. They had 15 assists and just five turnovers against Creighton.
“It was tough on all of us,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It would’ve been better to play a game in two days. It was a long time after a loss like that to get hammered.”
Wright said Villanova’s defensive commitment had been slipping leading up to the Georgetown loss and he challenged his players to fix it. They did, forcing five turnovers while jumping out to a 15-0 lead that was too much for the Bluejays to overcome.
“We wanted to start the game off diving all over the place,” Arcidiacono said.
James Milliken had 13 points for the Bluejays (9-12, 0-8), who lost their ninth straight game. Creighton’s last win came Dec. 19 at home versus Texas-Pan American. The Bluejays reached the third round of the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons.
“I knew we had some rebuilding to do, but I wouldn’t have predicted this,” coach Greg McDermott said. “We have some guys learning new roles and obviously it hasn’t gone as well as I hoped.”
The victory was a bit of redemption for Villanova.
Creighton handed the Wildcats their only two league losses last season, winning a pair of blowouts by a combined 49 points. The Bluejays set a Big East and school record by making 21 3-pointers in a 96-68 victory last January in Philadelphia. They also routed Villanova 101-80 in Omaha last season.
Of course, that Creighton team had last season’s player of the year Doug McDermott, along with three other starters. None were with Creighton Sunday night.
The Bluejays were 4 for 21 (19 percent) from the arc this time, committed 19 turnovers and lacked the talent to stay with Villanova.
“We were a pretty good shooting team early in the season and now everybody has it going bad at the same time,” Greg McDermott said.
Villanova, meanwhile, was 12 for 26 (46.2 percent) from 3-point range after struggling from the distance the last two games, going 13 for 41 (31.7) from long range.
Villanova, which led by 15 at intermission, maintained a double-digit advantage throughout the second half.
The Wildcats went ahead 64-42 on Dylan Ennis’ 3-pointer with 6:02 remaining and took their biggest lead on Hilliard’s 3 with 4:04 left that made it 67-43.
Villanova scored the first 15 points of the game, capped by JayVaughn Pinkston’s free throw 6:51 in.
“You put yourself in almost an impossible situation,” Greg McDermott said. “It’s as bad (of a start) as I can remember because of the foolish turnovers.”
After a five-day break between games, Villanova now must wait until Saturday to resume playing.
“We have a week again here, which is kind of crazy in the middle of the season,” Wright said. “How do we keep these guys fresh and hungry as we get ready for DePaul? It’s taken up a lot of my thought. Like, what do we do with these guys for five days?”
Creighton: Coach Greg McDermott and his staff wore pink sneakers in support of Coaches vs. Cancer.
Villanova: The Wildcats improved to 9-0 this season at their on-campus home court while winning their 24th straight at the Pavilion, where they are 267-61 (.814) all-time.
Villanova: plays at DePaul on Saturday.
Creighton: hosts St. John’s on Wednesday.