Omaha, Neb. – Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster combined for 52 points as the Creighton men's basketball team knocked off No. 3 Villanova, 89-83, before 18,321 fans in BIG EAST action at CenturyLink Center Omaha on Saturday afternoon. The host Bluejays outscored Villlanova 17-11 in the extra period to knock off a top-three team for the first time in 15 tries.
Creighton improved to 20-9, clinching the program's 18th 20-win season in the last 20 years and its 29th time overall. The Bluejays also jumped to 9-7 in league play, clinching a .500 or better conference record for the 22nd time in 23 seasons. Villanova dropped to 25-4 on the season and 12-4 in conference play, falling one game behind idle Xavier in search of a fifth straight BIG EAST title.
Coming out of the break, more fast-paced basketball ensued. A layup from Foster (14:21) and a Thomas trey (13:11) gave the Bluejays a 20-17 advantage. Villanova mounted a streak of their own, with a 7-0 run to regain the lead (24-20).
Creighton and Villanova once again traded baskets, with the lead never extending past four for either team in the first 17 minutes of the game, before a 9-0 Villanova run gave the Wildcats a 38-33 lead and forcing Creighton into a timeout with 2:19 left in the first half. Down 40-35 with under 10 seconds left, Foster took charge, isolating his defender before stepping back and draining a trey as the first half expired to narrow the margin to 40-38 going into halftime.
Thomas (15) and Foster (14) combined for 29 of Creighton's 38 first half points. Thomas shot 5-for-6 (83.3%) from deep at half, breaking his career-high of four threes made in a game.
Coming out of the break, the Bluejays and Wildcats continued where they left off, trading blows with each other. A Foster three at the 13:53 mark narrowed the deficit to just 49-48, before Jacob Epperson scored the next six points for the Jays to give Creighton their first lead since the 3:45 minute mark in the first half and a four-point advantage with 11:18 left in the game. A Thomas jumper capped off what would be an 11-1 run to push lead to 56-50, before Villanova's Omari Spellman knocked down a trey and spark a run that eventually tied the game up at 60-60 (8:27).
Moments like these are why we worked so hard in the offseason. Thank you to all 18,000+ fans for showing up and being loud. I need everybody to come out to the last one on Tuesday! pic.twitter.com/fNbgT9lgXx— Marcus Foster (@Swaggy2_) February 25, 2018
Villanova's National Player of the Year candidate Jalen Brunson put the game on his shoulders, scoring the game's next eight points to give the Wildcats their largest lead of the day at 68-60 wiht 4:30 left. Epperson stopped the bleeding with 4:20 left to play, before Foster answered the next trip down with a trey from the corner to give new life to the Bluejays and cut the deficit to within three (68-65).
Following the trend of the game, the Wildcats and Bluejays would continue to trade buckets. After an and-one by Brunson to take the lead for the Wildcats (71-69) with 52 seconds left, Foster found Mitch Ballock, who drained a trey from the corner to take a 72-71 lead with 35 seconds on the clock. A defensive scramble in the paint on the other end saw Thomas come out with the ball before being fouled and sent to the line with just over 10 seconds left. Unable to convert the front end, Nova's Donte DiVincenzo rebounded and drew a foul. He hit one of his two free throws to tie the game at 72. Foster's potential fifth career game-winning shot was swatted away at the rim by Villanova's Mikal Bridges as regulation ended.
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Both teams traded baskets in the first five possessions of overtime, before Creighton created a stop on the defensive end up 78-76. Free throws by Epperson (1:46) and a split from Foster (1:22) pushed the Bluejay lead to 81-76. Thomas responded to a quick bucket from Nova's Brunson with a free-throw of his own (1:05) after a Flagrant 1 foul on Villanova's Phil Booth. On the ensuing possessoin Davion Mintz fed Ballock to give CU a 84-78 lead entering the final minute. Creighton's defense continued get stops and Foster's four free-throws pushed the advantage to nine points before a late three from Bridges fell in to claw back to six. Foster's two free throws with 15 seconds on the clock would seal the victory.
Ballock (13), Epperson (12) and Mintz (10) also found their way to double digit scoring, while Mintz (9 rebounds) and Foster (8 rebounds) each almost tallied double-doubles. Ballock rounded his night off with six rebounds and a career-high eight assists in 43 minutes to end his first career start as a Bluejay.
Creighton takes on DePaul in BIG EAST action on Tuesday as the Blue Demons come to CenturyLink Center Omaha off a 70-62 victory against Marquette. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. The Bluejays will honor their senior class following the game.
Notes: Creighton's four wins over ranked teams this year tie a program record for one season, first done last year ... Creighton is now 8-1 this year in games after a loss ... Creighton is one of 12 teams this year with four or more wins over top-25 teams ... Creighton improved to 31-141 all-time (4-6 this year) against ranked teams ... Creighton is 3-8 all-time against ranked Villanova teams. The only other programs Creighton has beaten three times while ranked are Butler (3x) and Xavier (3x) ... Creighton improved to 13-26 under Greg McDermott against top-25 teams. The Bluejays were 18-115 in program history against the top-25 before his arrival ... Creighton is now 10-64 all-time against top-10 teams, including a 5-13 mark under Greg McDermott. Three of those wins have come over top-10 Villanova teams ... Creighton, Seton Hall and Butler are the only teams to have beaten Villanova three times in the last five seasons. The Wildcats are a nation-best 154-21 since the start of the 2013-14 campaign ... The crowd of 18,321 was the 15th-largest in program history at home ... Creighton has played 10 games against ranked teams this year. Only Baylor (11) has more ... Creighton's eight wins over the top-25 since the start of last season are tied for eighth-most nationally ... Creighton avoided a fourth straight home loss to Villanova. Southern Illinois (2003-04 to 2006-07) is the only team to ever beat the Jays four straight seasons at CenturyLink Center Omaha ...Jacob Epperson shot 5-for-6 from the field and has now made 16 of his last 17 field goal attempts ... Marcus Foster has made at least one three-pointer in 16 straight games and 33 of his last 34 games. Saturday was the 46th time in his last 47 contests that he's scored in double-figures ... Marcus Foster moved into 25th on Creighton's all-time scoring list with 1,219 points, passing Ray Yost (1,196) ... Creighton had played 107 straight games without seeing overtime before Saturday, last going to OT on Feb. 4 ,2015 in a win at Xavier ... Greg McDermott is 6-1 at Creighton in overtime games, including a 5-0 mark in league play ... The team to score first in overtime has won 13 of Creighton's last 14 games, including Saturday ... Creighton improved to 34-23 all-time at CenturyLink Center Omaha when trailing at halftime ... Ronnie Harrell Jr. did not suit up (foot), which led to Mitch Ballock's first career start.