March 3, 2021 –
The Villanova Wildcats wins the Big East regular season for the 11th time, most of any league member, defeating the Creighton Blue Jays 72 – 60 on Senior Night at the Finneran Pavilion. The Wildcats will be the number one seed in the upcoming conference tournament. During the game the team lost point guard Collin Gillespie for the remainder of the contest with a knee injury deemed serious. The extent is unknown, but he was on the bench for the second half.
“There is probably not a player that had such an impact on the team in a year as Collin does here,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “Spiritually our leader, work ethic he’s our leader, character wise he is our leader. On the court he is. He is tough to replace and we’re going to have to grow up real quick and guys have to step up and I think they will.”
Villanova started out the game looking like the number 10 team in the country. They made three-pointers and sprinted out to an early lead. At the 6:38 mark of the first half Gillespie went down underneath the basket. Nova was leading 27 – 15 at that moment, and the team would carry on. Down at first, but got it going.
“Obviously, it’s bittersweet,” stated Wright. “It was a great effort by our guys. I am proud of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl taking over the point for most of the first half. And Justin (Moore) did a great job playing the whole second half.”
Moore went to the bench with two fouls. Robinson-Earl assumed the point guard responsibility. During that time the lead increased to 42 – 33 at halftime.
The Cats kept rolling and widened the lead to 57 – 35 with 10:25 left to play. But they would not cruise to a win going without a point over the next eight and a half minutes. The Blue Jays were on a 17-point run getting to within 57 – 52 as over six and a half minutes remained.
Villanova readied the response started by Robinson-Earl scoring with 5:43 on the clock. Moore converted a traditional three-point play as there was just over two minutes left. As one minute remained Cole Swider nailed a three to get the lead back to double-digits. The Blue Jays got one basket in that period of time.
“The one good thing about that stretch was we had to hang in there defensively,” Wright said. “That’s what we didn’t do against Butler. That’s been our inconsistency this year is putting together those stretches defensively, which we did during that time. They cut into the lead but it could have been a lot worse going that long without scoring.”
Moore scored a game-high 24 points, one shy of his career-high. He handed out 5 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds. Moore had to step up and did, but credited his teammates.
“It was just the way my teammates were finding me,” said Moore. “When we are sharing the ball, it’s hard to stop us. We did a great job of finding each other.”
Robinson-Earl had a double-double getting 14 points and rebounds apiece.
Mitch Ballock led Creighton with 14 points and Damien Jefferson added13. Blue Jays leading scorer Marcus Zegarowski was contained to 10 points.
The Cats win the Big East. Providence is next on the schedule, then the tournament in the Garden. The team played without their leader, and the immediate future in unknown. Whether he is on the floor or not Gillespie still has impact.
“We know how much dedication he has for Villanova basketball,” said Robinson-Earl about Gillespie. “We all look to him as a leader. When you see something as devastating as that happen, we know we’ve got to step up and play for him. We’ll go out there and play a full forty minutes. We’ll give it all for him because he gives his all for us.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian