VILLANOVA, PA. 25, 2017 – The #2 Villanova Wildcats saw their 48-game wining streak at the Pavilion snapped in the previous game against Butler. It was time for a bounce-back win. That would be a tough assignment as the #23 Creighton Bluejays visited. To add to the emotion it was Senior Day as three players; Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Darryl Reynolds were honored before the game. And it would be their last game at the Pavilion as we know it. The building would undergo a renovation beginning in June and will open as the Finneran Pavilion in 2018.
Nova overcame the emotion and the teams gave the Pavilion a send off that was worthy of the building. And the Wildcats lowered the curtain with an impressive 79 – 63 victory, and with it their fourth straight Big East regular season title.
“It was definitely emotional at the beginning of the game celebrating our parents,” said senior guard Hart. “Then we had to get down to playing forty minutes of Villanova basketball. This game is not about the seniors, it’s about the next step in our journey. We fought and we battled, and I’m proud of us for that. It was great to do all that.”
“It’s about really talented players, and guys that help each other and get better,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said about the four-peat. “Nobody wins without really talented players. When you win championships, the players are talented. These guys (the seniors) have played with great players who taught them. Now these guys are great players who are teaching. That’s what it’s all about. It’s hard to keep that going.”
Eric Paschall, one of those students, led Villanova with a career-high 19 points. Hart scored 16 and Jenkins 15 points. Reynolds did not play due to a rib injury that has kept him out of five consecutive games. As a team the Wildcats made 29 of 55 shots (52.7%). Creighton hit 24 of 55 and 11 of 27 from beyond the arc.
With 11:33 to go a basket by Khyri Thomas got Creighton to within 48 – 47. The Bluejays would not get another basket for nearly three minutes. Meanwhile Villanova would score 11 of the next 13 points to establish a 59 – 49 lead at 8:37 on a layup by Hart. After a three by Marcus Foster Nova got two baskets and an electrifying tip in by Eric Paschall to grab an 11-point advantage at 65 – 54 and control.
The last field goal in a men’s game before the renovations begin was a three-pointer by Josh Hart.
Creighton got into foul trouble. They were whistled 18 times, but the ones early in bunches were the problem. Villanova was in the bonus within the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“When you put Villanova in the bonus, the way they shoot fouls, control the ball, you’re asking for trouble, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Creighton Coach Greg McDermott.
Foster scored a game-high 25 points and had 6 made three-pointers, a career-best. Thomas added 17.
The Senior Class has posted a 123 – 16 record. The seniors have won or shared four Big East regular season championships and four Philadelphia Big Five titles. And the class will always be known as National Champions.
“This was for our families and the student body,” Jenkins said. “There is a lot more we want to accomplish. We are looking forward to our next game.”
At the end of the game there was a puddle at mid-court due to the rain. Significant?
“There was a big puddle in the middle of the court, the roof was leaking,” said Wright. “The building had nothing left, and we had nothing left.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian