PHILADELPHIA — Creighton went into Monday's game against fourth-ranked Villanova feeling like it had the homecourt advantage.
After all, the Bluejays had played more games at the Wells Fargo Center since last March than the Wildcats.
“In shootaround today, we were talking about how this felt like home,'' Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “It seemed like we were just here. And it was really cool knowing that we had played more games here in the last year than Villanova had.
“We came in with an open mindset and we played our best basketball.''
The Bluejays hammered out a 96-68 win over Villanova, setting a program-record by making 21 3-point baskets. By the time the rout was finished, Creighton might have had as many fans in the stands as the Wildcats, who watched theirs make an early exit as their deficit mounted.
Monday marked the first time this season Villanova played a regular-season game at Wells Fargo. The Wildcats have played a total of 64 games there since the arena opened in 1996. Villanova plays most of its home games at The Pavilion, its on-campus arena.
Creighton played two games at Wells Fargo in the NCAA tournament last March. The Bluejays defeated Cincinnati in a second-round game before Duke ended their season in the third round. In that game, the Blue Devils held Creighton to its worst shooting night of the season — 30.2 from the floor and 10.5 percent from 3-point range.
Creighton shot 56.9 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the arc against Villanova. Ethan Wragge, who did not attempt a 3-point shot against Duke, made 9 of 14 long-range bombs against the Wildcats.
The rout allowed McDermott to leave the arena with a much better feeling. Last March, he was still undecided about whether he would return for his senior season.
“I remember our flight home basically in tears, thinking that it (college career) could be all over,'' McDermott said. “Grant Gibbs thought it was his last game, too, and he was all emotional. It's funny how we're all back.''
Gibbs did not play against Villanova as he is recovering from a dislocated kneecap.
“This has gone about as well as it possibly could have,'' McDermott said. “I just hope that continues.''
Bluejays start each half off right
One of the things that ate at the Bluejays after Saturday's loss at Providence was the inability to set the tone at the start of each half.
Providence scored on 8 of its first 9 possessions to start each half in pulling off an 81-68 upset of the Bluejays.
“That really bothered us,'' Creighton guard Jahenns Manigat said. “We came out focused tonight. We came out firing. We threw the first, second and third punches. Then, when we let them back into at the end of the first half, we came out the start the second half exactly the same way we started the game.''
Creighton opened the game by making its first nine 3-point attempts, with McDermott missing the only shot, a jumper from in close, in the opening 10 possessions. The hot streak allowed the Bluejays to open a 27-8 lead.
Villanova clawed back within 13 points at the end of the first half but Creighton opened the second half with scores on nine of its first 14 possessions. That spurt helped the Bluejays open a 77-47 lead when McDermott buried a 3-point shot with 11:44 to play.
“Our offensive numbers are going to get us a lot of attention,'' Manigat said, “but I thought our defensive numbers was what propelled us to win this game.''
Villanova scored on just three of its first nine possessions to open the game and three of its first 13 to start the second half.
“I think we sent a message to the country that we can play with anyone,'' McDermott said. “A lot of people question our defense but we showed tonight we can defend, too. And we can shoot the ball.''
Wragge enjoys another Philadelphia trip
Wragge tied Kyle Korver's school record for 3-point baskets in a game with his nine #Wraggebombs. His previous best: the seven he made in a victory — in Philadelphia — over St. Joseph's in mid-November.
He had matched his career high by the time Monday's game was six minutes and 5 seconds old. His 24 points at halftime were two more than he had ever scored in a game, and he tacked on another 3-point basket in the second half to finish with 27.
“I had a lot of confidence coming in here,'' Wragge said. “I shot the ball well last year when we played here, I was familiar with the arena. And once I get one, I like to follow it up.''
And once he got six? Keep on firing, Wragge said.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said he wasn't surprised to see Wragge burn his team early and often. The combination of Wragge and McDermott presents matchup problems for any team, Wright said.
“Wragge was incredible,'' Wright said. “And McDermott is a joy to watch. You don't like it when he's doing it to you, but he's a joy to watch.''
Wright also singled out Creighton guard Austin Chatman, who had 10 assists, five points, four rebounds and a steal.
“He controls the tempo and gets everybody shots,'' Wright said. “Then, when he needs to make a play, he makes a play. They run their offense though Doug, but they put ball in Chatman's hands.
“He makes great decisions, and he gives them a guy in the post making great decisions and another on the perimeter doing the same thing.''
Bits and pieces
The Bluejays' point total and 21 3-pointers were the most ever allowed by Villanova in a game at Wells Fargo. Wragge's nine 3-point baskets were the most ever against the Wildcats at any site. ... Creighton failed to lead at any point in its loss to Providence. The Bluejays never trailed against Villanova. ... The Bluejays had 25 assists on 33 baskets against the Wildcats, tying their second-highest total of the season. Creighton also had 25 assists in a season-opening win over Alcorn State, and established its season high the next game against Missouri-Kansas City. ... Devin Brooks had four of Creighton's seven steals. The junior-college transfer also pitched in four assists, five rebounds and four points. ... Manigat had five assists without a turnover. In Creighton's seven Big East games, the senior guard has 33 assists and just four turnovers for an assists-to-turnovers ratio of 8.25-to-1. ... James Bell led Villanova with 19 points but the Bluejays held JayVaughn Pinkston, the Wildcats' scoring leader with a 15.6 average, to 11 points. In addition, they kept 6-foot-11 Daniel Ochefu in check. Ochefu had scored 24 points in Villanova's previous two wins but had just five against the Bluejays. ... Creighton plays its next two games at home — Saturday versus Georgetown and Jan. 28 against St. John's. The Bluejays then will get 10 days off before resuming league play with a Feb. 7 game against DePaul.
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Video: Creighton makes nine straight 3-pointers
Video: Recap of Creighton's win over Villanova
Video: Interview with Ethan Wragge and coach Greg McDermott