‘Nova attacks the paint, defeats Creighton



Jack McCarthy

Since Creighton joined the reformed Big East, CenturyLink Arena in Omaha has been one of the toughest places to play on Villanova’s schedule. Last year, the Wildcats escaped with a narrow victory over a pesky Bluejays team, and I’m sure no one wants to remember the thrashing Nova took from Doug McDermott’s squad two years ago.

This time, the atmosphere was no different. A rowdy sellout crowd of 17,375 was on their feet every time the Bluejays gained an ounce of momentum. However, Josh Hart and Daniel Ochefu took it upon themselves to silence the crowd every chance they could, and the remaining Wildcats followed suit with the teams’ best shooting night of the season.

Hart got to the rim early and often and converted 10 of 14 attempts, finishing with 25 points. Ochefu made his first 7 shots and finished the game shooting 9 for 10 with 19 points.

Together, the entire team shot 68% from the field and an astounding 28/32 from inside the arc. While the Wildcats have received criticism this year for taking too many threes and only converting at a low percentage, they showed a change in strategy against a lackluster Creighton defense. Rather than settling for jumpers, the team found lanes to the basket and was able to finish at the rim over the relatively small Creighton lineup.

This all started with Ochefu, who was able to score at will early on. Recently, Ochefu has shown off a mid range jumper and an increased ability to attack off the dribble. With the additions to his already solid offensive game, Ochefu should be the catalyst for Nova’s offense moving forward.

With the crowd cheering them on, Creighton would not go down easy. Even with the Wildcats’ hot shooting from the onset of the game, the Bluejays hung tough and were able to cut the deficit to five by halftime.

Jalen Brunson, who had been quiet in the first half, then scored 15 second half points marked by back to back threes that all that extinguished Creighton’s hope for an upset with a little over five minutes remaining.

While Creighton remains a solid offensive team, they simply lacked the size and athleticism to defend Nova’s balanced offensive attack. The loss dropped them to 10-5 (1-1). Next, they take on an inconsistent Georgetown team on Tuesday in Omaha.

For Villanova, this may seem like a business-as-usual win for a team that should rise in the AP poll this Monday. But, every Big East win will matter this year, and especially wins on the road at places like CenturyLink Arena.

For a team that has been criticized for it’s shot selection, a dominating performance from inside the arc helps to alleviate the concern that they are simply a “live by the three, die by the three” type team. Expect the Wildcats to continue to score inside as long as they are given the opportunity.

Next, Nova returns to the Pavilion on Wednesday to take on a talented Seton Hall squad that is in search of a signature win.