OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Marcus Zegarowski scored a season-high 25 points, Mitch Ballock had 17 of his 20 points in the second half and 19th-ranked Creighton’s offense was at its high-tempo best in a 86-70 rout of No. 5 Villanova on Saturday.
Creighton (16-5, 12-4 Big East) won for the sixth time in seven games and knocked off a top-five opponent for the first time since beating Villanova in February 2018.
The Wildcats (13-3, 8-2) sustained their most lopsided loss since a 25-point defeat to Ohio State in November 2019.
The Bluejays pulled away early in the second half of the meeting of the Big East’s top two teams. They had their best shooting first half of the season (65.4%) and finished at 59.3%.
Ballock made three of his six 3-pointers during a 13-2 run that extended the Bluejays advantage to 67-48.
Zegarowski bested Collin Gillespie in the highly anticipated matchup of two of the nation’s top point guards. Gillespie had eight points on 3-for-12 shooting overall and 2 of 8 on 3s.
Zegarowski, the Big East preseason player of the year, had struggled with his shot the previous three games. He made three 3s in the first half, including one that gave Creighton the lead for good. He also accounted for the prettiest play of the game when he drove baseline on Gillespie for a reverse layup.
Early in the second half, Zegarowski made a move to get Gillespie to go the other way, then swished a one-handed floater in the lane.
Christian Bishop, the Bluejays’ 6-foot-7 center, made six of seven shots and scored 16 points, and converted two lobs from Zegarowski and one from Denzel Mahoney into first-half dunks.
Villanova came to Omaha off its best offensive game, scoring a season-high 96 points in a blowout of Marquette. The Wildcats had shot 70% in the second half of that game and a season-best 63% overall.
The Wildcats weren’t nearly as good at CHI Health Center, shooting 33% in the second half and 37.5% for the game.
Justin Moore had 21 points and Jermaine Samuels added 16 for Villanova.
Jermaine Robinson-Earl, who came in shooting 56% and averaging just under 20 points over his previous four games, was 3 of 13 and had eight points.
Villanova: Defense has been a concern for coach Jay Wright, and this game exposed it. If the offense isn’t operating at a high level, the Wildcats can’t count on their defense to bail them out.
Creighton: This was the performance the Bluejays had been looking for from Zegarowski, who had been up and down following offseason knee surgery. Zegarowski had been 12 of 35, including 4 of 15 on 3s, in the previous three games. If Zegarowski keeps going, he can lead the Bluejays on a deep postseason run.
Villanova hosts Connecticut on Saturday.
Creighton hosts DePaul on Feb. 24.
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