Villanova Eliminated From Big East Tournament by Creighton, 87-74


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

Villanova scored 23 points in the first half of its matchup with Creighton.

Owen Hewitt, Co-Sports Editor

NEW YORK — Villanova lost to No. 24 Creighton Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament, 87-74. Creighton’s 87 points is the second highest point total the ‘Cats have allowed this season. The loss drops Villanova to 17-15 on the season. 

“I thought [Creighton] came out and played extremely hard,” head coach Kyle Neptune said. “In terms of us, I wouldn’t say that was our best game. But in terms of the thought process and coming out and trying to execute, I thought our guys were there. Creighton just played better than us today.” 

Redshirt junior forward Eric Dixon led a second-half charge that would see the ‘Cats break down a 20-point Bluejays lead to single digits with 3:26 left in the second half, but the ‘Cats would never get closer than nine. Dixon would finish with 20 points, 18 of which came on 6-10 shooting in the second half.  

Creighton’s junior center Ryan Kalkbrenner led the way for the Bluejays with a game-high 21 points on 9-12 shooting. 

“He’s obviously a great player, they go to him a lot,” head coach Kyle Neptune said postgame. “They made a point to go to him often. But you look at the first half, I thought defensively, it actually wasn’t that bad. I thought they got out in transition a little bit too much.” 

The first half was defensively stringent, with both teams combining for 55 points. Villanova started cold , going 1-7 on their first seven shots. The ‘Cats would remain cold, shooting just 9-27 from the field over the remainder of the first half. Villanova would go into the half down nine, 32-23. 

The second half got off to a nightmare start for the ‘Cats, with Creighton going on a 14-5 run to boost its lead to 18. The lead got as large as 20 for the Bluejays after another 7-0 run. The ‘Cats went on an 11-0 run to get within nine points, but they were unable to cut it any closer. The Bluejays were able to take home the victory, 87-74. 

The next step for the ‘Cats is up in the air. They will not receive an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament but could make an appearance in the NIT if they are invited. The field of the NIT is set to be announced on Sunday, March 12.