Hart, Ochefu lead No. 16 'Nova to 85-71 win over Creighton

OMAHA, Neb. -- Villanova coach Jay Wright didn't have to worry for long about how his team would follow up its best overall performance of the season.

The 16th-ranked Wildcats, two days removed from a 31-point win over No. 6 Xavier, had their best shooting game of the season with Josh Hart and Daniel Ochefu leading the way in an 85-71 victory over Creighton on Saturday night.

"We played a great game against Xavier and there's no way we were going to play that well here," Wright said. "I was concerned how the guys would respond to that."

Hart, who scored 25 points, and Ochefu, who had 19, combined to go 13 for 14 in the first half and 19 of 24 for the game. The Wildcats (12-2, 2-0 Big East) finished at 68 percent, even better than the 63.2 percent they shot against Xavier.

The fast start was crucial in front of a spirited sellout crowd of 17,375 at CenturyLink Center.

"We know what this place can be if you're not on top of your game and this place gets going," Wright said. "And they get going. It's as tough as anywhere in the country. From the old Big East days, the dome was like that at Syracuse. Here, if you're inefficient offensively and turning it over and they're out running and hitting 3s, this place gets crazy."

Hart also had five rebounds, three steals and a block for the Wildcats, but it was 10-for-14 shooting that he'll remember.

"I wish I could shot like that every game," he said. "I've got to attribute that to Daniel. He got us off to a great start. They had to really key on him. Him being the great basketball player he is, he's able to make the right play with his own shot. He's a great passer out of there, hits guys on cuts, hit guys for open 3s."

The 6-foot-11 Ochefu made all seven of his first-half shots and finished 9 for 10.

"My teammates got me the ball in the right spots," he said. "I was taking shots everyone was expecting, shots that's I've worked on, and I know my coaches and teammates have full confidence in me. I know if I miss a shot, they're going to me the next play."

Maurice Watson Jr. scored 15 points to lead the Bluejays (10-5, 1-1). Isaiah Zierden added 14 points and Cole Huff had 12.

Creighton 7-footer Geoffrey Groselle, who scored 22 points in a win at St. John's on Thursday and averaged 21.6 over his previous three games, took only one shot and had four points.

Villanova was playing on the road for the first time since losing at then-No. 8 Virginia on Dec. 19. The Wildcats have beaten four straight opponents by a total of 95 points.

Villanova dominated inside in the first half, outscoring the Bluejays 26-12 in the paint. Ochefu alternately worked over Groselle and Zach Hanson in the low post, and Hart drove the baseline three straight times for layups as the Wildcats opened a 38-28 lead.

"There was no question who the better team was," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "Bottom line, sometimes in this game it comes down to me against you and either I'm a bigger man or you're a bigger man, I'm going to the basket or you're going to stop me. Tonight they went to the basket and we didn't provide near enough resistance."


Villanova: Jalen Brunson, the conference's preseason freshman of the year, was back in the starting lineup after being limited to 17 minutes against Xavier because of a virus. He scored all 15 of his points in the second half... In six games since being held to a season-low 55 points by Oklahoma, the Wildcats are 176 for 318 (55.3 percent) and 56-143 (39.1 percent) on 3-pointers. .. The Wildcats came in holding opponents to a Big East-low 59.5 points a game.

Creighton: The Bluejays lost their 10th straight against a Top 25 opponent. ... They came in having not trailed in any of their previous four home games. ... Groselle has made 26 of his last 28 field goals.


Villanova: Hosts Seton Hall on Wednesday night.

Creighton: Hosts Georgetown on Tuesday night.