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Miracle on Broad Street Denied | Villanova vs. #10 Creighton Recap

Written by on March 10, 2024

In the regular season finale at the Wells Fargo Center, Trey Alexander leads #10 Creighton to victory with the game winning shot with just 0.2 seconds left. The Wildcats’ miracle comeback on South Broad Street from down 24 points fell short just seconds away from overtime. For the second year in a row, Villanova ends their season with a 10-10 conference record. Eric Dixon’s 25-point performance was not enough to overcome the Wildcats’ awful start.

Villanova vs. #10 Creighton at shootaround prior to tipoff in the regular season finale at the Wells Fargo Center.

After a very slow start offensively, Villanova actually ended the game with better shooting stats than Creighton. They converted 47% of their shots from the field. They made 9 of 20 three-point attempts (45%). In addition to Dixon’s 25 points, he also contributed three rebounds and two assists. Justin Moore shot 7-12 from the field, including three made three-pointers, for 17 points. Mark Armstrong had some nice layups in crunch time for nine points, four rebounds, and three assists. It was a nice bounce back game for both Mark Armstrong and Justin Moore.

The Wildcats’ bench scored just five points with all five coming from Jordan Longino. Hakim Hart was scoreless, but he added two rebounds and four assists. Brendan Hausen and Lance Ware struggled against Creighton’s defense. The Wildcats kept the rebounding battle close, 39-24, which they needed to do to have a chance to win late. Villanova had just eight turnovers.

#10 Creighton shot 45% from the field, but they made 35% of their three-point attempts. After shooting the lights out in the first half, the Bluejays did not find much success from behind the arc in the final twenty minutes. Creighton’s offense was not very impressive for most of the game, but they did not need to be after the extremely hot start. The Bluejays had 18 assists and smooth ball movement, especially in the first ten minutes of the game. Baylor Scheierman led Creighton with 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Trey Alexander finished with 17 points and six rebounds. He played all 40 minutes and hit the game winning shot for the Bluejays. Ryan Kalkbrenner found his offensive success in the second half with 14 total points and five rebounds. With most of their starters playing around 38 minutes, Creighton used just three bench players. Francisco Farabello scored just three points in his 21 minutes off the bench.

Game Recap

First Half: Awful Start for Villanova

The Wildcats started the game looking like the Cats’ of January by allowing a quick 12-0 run to Creighton in the first three minutes and twelve seconds. Trey Alexander scored eight of the Bluejays’ first ten points. Villanova missed a few early three-point attempts and what looked to be easy layups. Jordan Longino finally allowed the crowd to sit with a nice three-pointer from the top of the arc.

Villanova finally got on the board, but things did not get any better for the Wildcats. In fact, the game continued to get worse for Villanova and Nova Nation. Creighton and Mason Miller took a 21-point advantage, 24-3, with a corner three with 12:42 left in the first half.

With 9:46 left, Ryan Kalkbrenner converted a short jumper in the paint to give the Bluejays their largest lead of the afternoon at 24 points. The crowd at the Wells Fargo Center was stunned and visibly upset as boos rained down in South Philly. However, the Wildcats did not give up and kept battling to trim the lead before halftime.

Eric Dixon did not have much success against Kalkbrenner in the paint in the first ten minutes, but he worked more from the perimeter and started the Cats’ offense in the right direction. Justin Moore rebounded nicely from his poor performance against the Pirates with seven points in the first twenty minutes. While Dixon and Moore took care of business offensively, Jordan Longino stepped up defensively to provide a spark for Villanova. A nice layup by Mark Armstrong cut the deficit to just ten points with 3:24 left in the first.

Villanova came as close as eight points in the first half with a Dixon three, but a three-point play from a layup by Kalkbrenner extended Creighton’s lead back to 11 points, 40-29, at halftime. Despite being down by 24 points, the Wildcats persevered and shook off the pressure. There was a still a lot of work to do in the second half, but Villanova getting the deficit to 11 at halftime was an overall success considering the start.

Second Half: Villanova attempts to complete the comeback in South Philly

The Wildcats continued their momentum from the end of the first half. Mark Armstrong drained a mid-range jumper to cut the deficit to seven points with 17 minutes left to play. Armstrong struggled in the first half, but he played well in the final twenty minutes. He used his pure speed and athleticism to get to the basket and finish. There was no pressure for any impressive layup; he simply attacked and picked up the points with his speed and quick first step.

For most of the beginning of the second half, Villanova kept the deficit around ten points. Creighton did not have the same shooting success as the first half, especially in the first ten minutes of the game. Baylor Scheierman drained a three-pointer with 10:43 remaining to give the Bluejays a 56-43 lead. The Cats’ soon trailed by 14 points with just 6:14 left to play in South Philly.

Villanova proved they could match Creighton in the last 20 minutes of game play, but the poor start was the main difference. Until this point, the Wildcats could not sustain a large run to keep the deficit in single-digits and really threaten Creighton’s comfortable advantage.

But the Cats’ were motivated to pull off the Rocky-like comeback in South Philly to get one step closer to punching their March Madness ticket. Villanova’s starters, especially Dixon, Armstrong, and Moore led a 13-0 run in about five minutes to trail by just one point, 65-64, with 1:33 left to play. Kalkbrenner responded with an impressive dunk in the paint over everybody to get the Bluejays’ lead back to three points.

Villanova needed a bucket or two with just 59 seconds left to play. Justin Moore missed a layup, and Creighton had the opportunity to basically put the game away. However, Villanova’s defense out of the timeout trapped Steven Ashworth to force a jump ball in favor of the Wildcats. This was such a risky but great play call from Coach Neptune and fantastic execution by Villanova. Eric Dixon attempted a three to tie the game. The shot did not fall, but he was fouled by Trey Alexander in the shooting process. Dixon tried to break the hearts of the Bluejays for the second time this season. He converted all three free throws to tie the game at 67 with 23 seconds left.

Heartbreak at the Wells Fargo Center

This was it. A stop would officially send the game to overtime as Villanova stormed all the way back from down 24 points midway in the first half. Villanova applied pressure to Creighton’s offense and locked down the Bluejays for 22 of the 23 seconds left on the game clock. However, Trey Alexander had just enough space to take a fade away jumper from the right side of the basket. As Alexander was falling away from the basket and shot, his attempt splashed through the net with just 0.2 seconds left to win the game for Creighton. Villanova attempted the Hail Mary inbounding pass, but there was not enough time to get a good look. The Bluejays survived a massive comeback from Villanova in South Philly to spoil the regular season finale.

The Wildcats lose in heartbreaking fashion after a Trey Alexander game winning fade away jumper from the right side of the basket.

My Thoughts + The Road Ahead for Villanova

Even with the valiant effort, Villanova ends the regular season with a 17-14 overall record and 10-10 conference record. The Cats’ matched every stride with Creighton in the final 30 minutes, but their awful start cost them the game and potentially March Madness without a large Big East Tournament run past Marquette. They have now finished 10-10 in Big East play for back-to-back seasons under Coach Neptune. Has there been improvements from last season? I think so. Villanova’s schedule has been extremely tough, and they have some impressive Quad 1 and Quad 2 wins. They play competitively on most nights and bring excellent defense. There maybe has not been as much improvement, especially offensively, as some would like in this second season with Coach Neptune, but the Wildcats are better than their record shows. Villanova will have a chance to prove it and make March Madness with a deep run in the Big East Tournament. A win against Creighton would have made things much easier for Villanova, but they really need to go far in New York to get into the Big Dance. Even with a big run that would have to at least defeat Marquette, the Wildcats still may only be good enough to get to the Final Four Play-In in Dayton, Ohio.

Eric Dixon Earns Season Award

Also, congratulations to Eric Dixon, who was named today to the 2023-24 Big East All-Conference Second Team.

WXVU’s Live Coverage of Villanova’s run in the Big East Tournament

WXVU’s live coverage of #6 Villanova vs. #11 DePaul on Wednesday begins at 8:30pm with the pregame show. Tipoff from Madison Square Garden is scheduled for 9pm. WXVU has you covered for all your Villanova men’s basketball and Big East Tournament updates. Follow @wxvu.sports on Instagram for the latest WXVU broadcast information.