OMAHA, Neb. — Defending national champion Villanova overcame a nine-point second half deficit to remain unbeaten in the BIG EAST Conference, posting a 90-78 road win at Creighton on Sunday before a sellout crowd of 17,379.
Villanova’s fifth straight win improved the Wildcats to 13-4 on the year and 4-0 in BIG EAST play. Creighton dropped to 10-7 (1-3 BIG EAST) after dropping its third straight contest.
Phil Booth led Villanova with 28 points and seven assists, including 19 points after the intermission.
The Bluejays came out firing in the first half, as Alexander drained five three-pointers to help the Bluejays to a 42-38 lead at the intermission.
Creighton matched its largest lead of the contest after it opened the second half with a three-pointer by Mitch Ballock and a pull-up jumper by Davion Mintz, making it 47-38. But Villanova answered quickly, scoring on four straight possessions as part of a 13-0 run that saw Booth contribute eight points.
CU stemmed the run with the next six points to retake the lead at 53-51 when Mintz fed Alexander for a lay-up with 13:24 left, but the Bluejays would not lead again. Booth hit consecutive three-pointers to open a 13-0 run that helped Nova take a 64-53 lead with 9:36 to go.
The Wildcats took their largest lead at 69-56 with 7:12 left after a trey by Collin Gillespie, and Creighton got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Creighton shot 45.2 percent for the game, including 14-for-35 from three-point range. CU dished 23 assists on 28 hoops and sank 8-of-9 free throws for a season-high 88.9 percent.
In addition to 28 points form Booth, Eric Paschall had 21 points and a team-best seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Gillespie chipped in with 14 points and Jermaine Samuels’ 13 points were two shy of his season best. VU shot 53.4 percent for the game, sinking 12-of-27 three-pointers, and were 16-of-19 at the line. The Wildcats won the rebound battle 34-30, and turned 12 Bluejay turnovers into 17 points.
Creighton opens a two-game road trip on Wednesday with a 5:30 p.m. CST game at St. John’s that will be televised nationally on FS1.