Saturday’s Top 25: Creighton stuns No. 3 Villanova

Eric Olson
Associated Press

Omaha, Neb. — A Creighton season that was beginning to head in the wrong direction righted itself in glorious fashion for at least one afternoon.

The Bluejays came into their game against No. 3 Villanova on Saturday having lost three straight in the Big East. Starting forward Ronnie Harrell Jr. was out of the lineup because of a foot infection, and they were down eight points with 4½ minutes left in regulation.

With Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas leading the way and two freshmen making major contributions, Creighton came back to defeat the highest-ranked opponent in program history with its 89-83 upset of the Wildcats in overtime.

“Sitting in the locker room, I couldn’t stop smiling,” said Foster, who scored 28. “I’m so happy how we won that game. We’ve been talking these last three games about how we want to play, and then to go out and execute what we said we wanted to do, it’s a great feeling right now.”

Creighton (20-9, 9-7 Big East) won for the first time in nine games against Villanova since 2014. The Bluejays also avenged a 20-point road loss to Villanova on Feb. 1.

“We always get a great game from Creighton, especially here,” Nova coach Jay Wright said. “You know on the road in this league you’re going to play in great environments against great teams. You have to be one step ahead of them to win on the road, and we weren’t today. They were one step better.”

Villanova (25-4, 12-4) had taken a 68-60 lead in regulation thanks to eight straight points from Jalen Brunson, but the Wildcats missed seven of its last nine shots in overtime as Creighton tightened its defense.

Davion Mintz scored on his own putback to put the Bluejays ahead 78-76, and Jacob Epperson made it a four-point game with two free throws with 1:45 left in the extra period.

Brunson lost control of the ball under his basket on the Wildcats’ next possession, and Phil Booth committed a flagrant-1 foul before Mitch Ballock scored for Creighton to make it 84-78.

“I’ve had some good wins over the course of my career, and I’ve coached some special teams,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been as proud of a group as I am right now. If you’re going to be successful against Villanova, you can’t turn it over and give them run-outs, you have to find a way to hang in there on the boards and you have to have toughness. We did all three good enough.”

Khyri Thomas made five straight 3-pointers in the first 11 minutes to set a career high and finished with 24 points. Ballock added 13 and fellow freshman Epperson had all 12 of his points after halftime.

Brunson led the Wildcats with 22 points, Mikal Bridges had 18 and Omari Spellman added 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Ballock’s 3-pointer gave Creighton a 72-71 lead with 30 seconds left in regulation, and Thomas went to the free-throw line with a chance to put the Bluejays up by three.

But he missed the free throw, and Donte DiVincenzo was fouled on the rebound. DiVincenzo made one of two free throws to tie it 72-all, and the game went to overtime when Bridges blocked Foster’s layup try just ahead of the buzzer.

“I told them at the start of overtime, ‘You get to play five more minutes in the greatest game of your life,’” McDermott said.

More Top 25

No. 1 Virginia 66, (at) Pittsburgh 37: Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half against Pittsburgh and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright. Freshman guard De’Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC). Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.

(At) No. 5 Duke 60, Syracuse 44: Marvin Bagley III had 19 points in his return from a sprained knee, and Duke (24-5, 12-4 ACC), beat Syracuse for its fifth straight win. Tyus Battle scored 12 to lead the Orange (18-11, 7-9), who lost their third in four games.

No. 8 Kansas 74, (at) No. 6 Texas Tech 72:Devonte Graham scored 26 points and Kansas (23-6, 12-4) set an NCAA record with its 14th straight regular-season conference championship, beating Texas Tech to clinch at least a tie for the Big 12 title. All 14 of the titles have come under coach Bill Self, who finished second in his first season at KU.

Zhaire Smith scored 20 points and fellow freshman Jarrett Culver had 18 for Texas Tech (22-7, 10-6), which dropped its second straight game since reaching the highest ranking in school history.

No. 6 Gonzaga 79, (at) BYU 65: Johnathan Williams scored 16 points, and Gonzaga (27-4, 17-1) beat BYU to clinch another West Coast Conference championship. Yoeli Childs led BYU (22-9, 11-7) with 19 points and eight rebounds.

(At) Florida 72, No. 12 Auburn 66: KeVaughn Allen bounced back from his first scoreless game in more than three years with 24 points, including two huge 3-pointers in the closing minutes, and Jalen Hudson added 19 points for the Gators (18-11, 9-7 SEC), including a pivotal three-point play with 26.8 seconds remaining.

No. 13 Wichita State 84, (at) SMU 78: Markis McDuffie scored a season-high 26 points off the bench, including nine during the first four minutes of the second half, to lead Wichita State (23-5, 13-3 AAC), which has won six straight games. Jahmal McMurray led SMU (16-13, 6-10)with 28 points.

(At) No. 15 Clemson 75, Georgia Tech 67: Gabe DeVoe scored 25 points and Shelton Mitchell added 14 as he returned from two games missed with a concussion to lead Clemson (21-7, 10-6 ACC).

No. 19 Tennessee 73, (at) Mississippi 65: Admiral Schofield scored 23, Jordan Bowden 15, and Lamonte Turner 13 for Tennessee (21-7, 11-5 SEC). Breein Tyree led the Rebels (12-17, 5-11) with 17 points.

(At) No. 21 West Virginia 85, Iowa State 70: Jevon Carter scored 24 points and made some history as West Virginia (21-8, 10-6 Big 12) pulled away to beat Iowa State. With 15:59 left in the first half, Carter picked up his first assist of the game, setting up a 3-pointer by Esa Ahmad to become the first major-conference player in NCAA history to record more than 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in a career. Lindell Wigginton led Iowa State (13-15, 4-12) with 29 points.

No. 22 Saint Mary’s 67, (at) Santa Clara 40: Jock Landale had 19 points for Saint Mary’s (27-4, 16-2 West Coast Conference), which has won three straight since its school-record 19-game winning streak ended with back-to-back losses. Henry Caruso had 14 points and seven rebounds for Santa Clara (11-19, 8-10).

(At) No. 24 Middle Tennessee 79, UAB 54: Nick King scored 22 points, Giddy Potts had 17 and Middle Tennessee (23-5, 15-1 Conference USA) celebrated its first game as a ranked team. Zack Bryant led UAB (17-12, 8-8) with 13 points.