Creighton finishes strong, knocks off No. 9 Villanova 79-59

Sports

Villanova’s Justin Moore (5) reaches for a loose ball against Creighton’s Ryan Hawkins (44), Alex O’Connell (5) and Ryan Kalkbrenner (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Ryan Hawkins scored 19 points to lead four players in double figures, and Creighton closed with a flurry in a 79-59 victory over No. 9 Villanova in the Big East opener for both teams on Friday night.

The Bluejays (9-3) saw their double-digit lead get cut to 58-54 with 8 1/2 minutes left, but the Wildcats (7-4) missed their last 12 shots from the field and were outscored 21-5 the rest of the way.

Ryan Nembhard had 11 of his 14 points in the second half as the Bluejays knocked off a second ranked opponent in seven days. Alex O’Connell added 12 points and Trey Alexander had 10 for Creighton.

Collin Gillespie scored 16 points and Eric Dixon had a career-high 15 for the defending conference champion Wildcats, who shot just 33%.

Ryan Kalkbrenner, the Bluejays’ 7-footer, had nine rebounds to go with his eight points, and he had four of his five blocks in the second half.

Villanova lost back-to-back regular-season games for the first time since February 2020.

There were 10 lead changes and two ties before Creighton got on a roll late in the first half. The Bluejays made five straight shots during a 15-5 spurt. Hawkins scored eight points in two minutes and Nembhard made a 3 from the wing to put Creighton up 35-26.

THE TAKEAWAY

Creighton: The Bluejays are only the fourth Villanova opponent to score more than 60 points. They picked up their sixth win against ‘Nova since 2013-14, most of any Wildcat opponent over that span.

Villanova: The Wildcats continue to struggle offensively. They had trouble dealing with top-ranked Baylor’s trapping defense in a 57-36 loss on Sunday. The offensive struggles were more self-inflicted this time. They never found a rhythm and went a season-worst 4 of 23 on 3s.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Hosts Xavier on Tuesday.

Creighton: Visits DePaul on Monday.

___

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.