Published Monday, January 20, 2014 at 7:58 pm / Updated at 1:54 am
BASKETBALL
Three-mendous: Creighton blows out No. 4 Villanova

PHILADELPHIA — The shooting display Creighton unleashed Monday night on the country's fourth-ranked team was outlandish even by its own lofty standards.

The Bluejays made their first nine shots from beyond the arc and finished with a program-record 21 3-point baskets in dismantling Villanova 96-68 before 14,114 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Ethan Wragge made seven of those first nine shots, sending #Wraggebombs trending into the Twitter world. He finished with nine to tie Kyle Korver's school record for 3-point baskets in a game while scoring a career-high 27 points.

Wragge's best shooting night? Nah, teammate Doug McDermott said.

“I've seen him hit like 11 or 12 in a row in practice,” McDermott said. “The outside world is kind of shocked with what they saw from him tonight. That's just another day at the office for Ethan.”

McDermott's father begged to disagree.

“That was one of the more incredible things I've ever been a part of as a coach,'' Greg McDermott said. “The way Ethan shot the basketball, the way our guys shared the basketball. Equally important, it was the way we defended.''

In some ways, the Bluejays' ability to get stops and grab rebounds against an athletic Villanova squad was as impressive as their shot-making. Creighton held Villanova to 39.7 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded the Wildcats 34-32 to improve to 16-3 and 6-1 in Big East play.

It was Providence that had exposed the Bluejays' shortcomings in those two areas in Saturday's 13-point win. Creighton was intent to come out Monday and demonstrate it could do more than just shoot the ball.

“Our defense really settled us especially at the start of tonight's game,” Creighton guard Jahenns Manigat said. “We knocked down a serious amount of 3s at the start while holding them to five or seven points.

“We really knew what we wanted to take away, and that really propelled us going forward.”

Manigat also had a career-high scoring night, making four 3-pointers in a 19-point performance. Toss in five 3-pointers and 23 points from Doug McDermott, and Creighton had enough from its top three scorers to win the game.

“They were outstanding,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They were really on the top of their game, and when you get behind a team like that that really moves the ball, that's tough to overcome.”

Villanova had lost just once in its first 17 games, with the setback coming against No. 2 Syracuse. The Wildcats had opened Big East play with five straight victories, climbing to the No. 4 spot in the Associated Press rankings released Monday.

Creighton, which dropped out of the AP rankings but retained the No. 24 spot in the coaches' poll, had not defeated a top-five team since 1970. Monday's victory also matched a 1963 win over Arizona State as the highest-ranked opponent the Bluejays had ever beaten.

The upset came with surprising ease thanks to the opening blitz that had Creighton leading by 19 points 6 1/2 minutes into the game when Wragge made his seventh straight 3-point shot.

“Our first possession, I got a pretty wide-open look,'' Wragge said. “It felt pretty good coming off my hand. My teammates know that once I get one, I'm hunting for two and three. They did an unbelievable job of getting me the ball.

“It's hard to describe how you feel when you get it going like that. You just let them fly and try not to think about it.''

Creighton kept the heat on and held a 47-19 lead after Isaiah Zierden capped the Bluejays' 23rd possession with another 3-pointer. Their final 12 possessions of the first half produced just seven more points, allowing Villanova to edge within 54-41 at halftime.

“I felt good at halftime,'' Wright said.

His mood started to change after Manigat opened the second half with a basket that came after he had grabbed an offensive rebound. Villanova missed its next shots, and Creighton started regaining some of the momentum it had lost in the final eight minutes of the first half.

“If we're going to come back,'' Wright said, “we needed to get those early stops and get it down to eight or nine. We couldn't.”

Villanova fans started making an early exit after another 3-point barrage hiked Creighton's lead to 30 points at 77-47 with 11:44 to play. Wragge tied Korver's record for 3-pointers in a game when he hit from the top of the key at the 14:02 mark.

After Wragge missed his next shot, Creighton got 3-point baskets from McDermott at 13:05, Austin Chatman at 12:25 and McDermott again at 11:44. Five minutes later, Will Artino's dunk made it 90-50, and the fan exodus really heated up.

“That's always good to see,” Doug McDermott said.

Manigat's 3-pointer, with 7:44 to play, gave the Bluejays a program record. The 21 3s also bettered the old Big East record of 20.

The Bluejays headed back to Omaha after the game, with the split of the two road games leaving them in first place, a half-game up on Villanova.

“We weren't trying to make any statements tonight,” Greg McDermott said. “We were trying to stay in the race, because we knew the championship is going to go through Villanova. This is a huge win for us.”

* * *

Video: Creighton makes nine straight 3-pointers



Video: Recap of Creighton's win over Villanova



Video: Interview with Ethan Wragge and coach Greg McDermott

Contact the writer: Steven Pivovar

stevepivovar@hotmail.com    |   402-679-2298    |  

Steven Pivovar is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and primarily covers Creighton athletics and the College World Series.

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