VILLANOVA, Pa. — Playing without starting guards Marcus Zegarowski and Ty-Shon Alexander, the Creighton men’s basketball team pushed the defending national champion and No. 14-ranked Villanova Wildcats to overtime before falling 66-59, on Wednesday night at renovated Finneran Pavilion.
Villanova (19-4) won its 11th consecutive game while becoming the first team since Connecticut in 1998-99 to open BIG EAST action 10-0. Creighton fell to 13-10 with the setback, and 4-6 in BIG EAST play.
Neither team got untracked offensively in the first 10 minutes, as Creighton led 12-8 thanks to six bench points. The Wildcats started 1-of-13 from three-point range but could not convert after four offensive rebound opportunities. Creighton led the majority of the first half before a three-pointer from Eric Paschall in the final 30 seconds helped the Wildcats take a 25-24 halftime lead.
Martin Krampelj led Creighton with seven points and five rebounds at the break, while Nova was paced by nine points from Collin Gillespie on a trio of three-pointers. The Wildcats shot 19 three-pointers in the first half, making five.
Neither team was able to pull away by more than four points for the first 15 minutes of the second half, and the Jays tied it on baskets by Mitch Ballock with 6:30 and again with 5:39 to play. Davion Mintz gave Creighton a 48-45 lead with 4:34 left with a deep triple to beat the shot clock.
Phil Booth trimmed the CU lead to one (48-47) with 2:03 left on Nova’s first hoop in nearly eight minutes. The Jays came up empty and Villanova called timeout with 1:24 remaining. The Wildcats retook the lead with 1:11 to play as Booth’s driving lay-up crawled over the rim to slip in and give VU a 49-48 edge.
Creighton milked the shot clock down to two before Kaleb Joseph was fouled while attempting a three-pointer with 37.1 left. He made the second one to tie the game, but Nova grabbed the rebound on his final miss and called timeout with 26.0 left. Booth’s drive would be rejected and hauled in by Joseph, giving CU possession with the shot clock off. After Villanova used its two fouls to give, Creighton called a full timeout with 2.8 left. Joseph would get the ball for the final shot, but his runner rimmed out to send the game to overtime.
Villanova won the tip and Eric Paschall immediately drilled a three-pointer to start overtime, but Mintz would answer to knot the score. The Wildcats retook the lead with 2:57 left on a Gillespie free throw, and went up three when Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree recovered an offensive rebound and dunked it. After an empty trip for CU, the Wildcats grabbed another offensive rebound and Phil Booth drilled a three-pointer late in the shot clock to give VU a 58-52 lead, the first time all night either team had led by more than four points.
Booth and Cosby-Roundtree added foul shots to cap an 8-0 run that didn’t end until Mintz’s hoop 17.0 left in the extra session.
Krampelj had his third double-double of the season, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Mintz added 19 points and a season-best eight rebounds. Also in double-figures with 11 points was Mitch Ballock. CU shot 45.3 percent for the game and made 5-of-17 three-point shots and 6-of-9 foul shots.
Freshman Saddiq Bey scored a team-high 17 points for Villanova, with Paschall (15), Booth (14) and Gillespie (13) also in double-figures. Villanova won the rebound battle 37-35 and converted 14 offensive rebounds into nine points.
The Bluejays will remain on the East Coast until visiting Seton Hall (13-9, 4-5 BIG EAST) on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. CST.