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Villanova-Creighton Preview

Now that Villanova has secured its second straight outright Big East title, it can focus on earning a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Looking to match their longest Big East regular-season winning streak, the No. 4 Wildcats try for an 11th consecutive victory Tuesday night at Creighton.

Villanova (27-2, 14-2) overcame a seven-point halftime deficit by shooting 14 of 28 in the final 20 minutes to win 78-66 at Xavier on Saturday to clinch back-to-back outright league titles for the first time in school history.

That victory coupled with BYU’s road upset of Gonzaga later that evening, opens the door for the Wildcats to potentially hear their name called as one of the four top seeds on Selection Sunday.

“There as good as any team in the country,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “They should be a No. 1 seed. They should be.”

As Villanova continues that quest, it can build on the resiliency shown by maintaining its composure after Xavier shot 59.3 percent in the first half. In the second, the Wildcats held the Musketeers to 8 of 25 from the field while improving their own offense.

“At halftime, we just said: we’ve got a good plan, we’ve just got to get down in there and be more intense,” coach Jay Wright said.

Despite shooting 44.3 percent overall, Villanova made 13 3-pointers for a second straight contest. It’s shot 47.7 percent from beyond the arc in the last five games.

Dylan Ennis and backup Kris Jenkins each hit four 3s while combining for 30 points while Ryan Arcidiacono made three and finished with 15 to help the Wildcats overcome a six-point performance from leading scorer Darrun Hilliard (14.4 points per game).

Hilliard, who averaged 22.5 points in the previous four games, scored 24 on 9-of-15 shooting during a 71-50 home rout of Creighton (13-16, 4-12) on Jan. 25.

While that result avenged Villanova’s only two league losses from last season, it also began the current winning streak that’s one shy of matching the school-record 11 consecutive Big East regular-season victories recorded in 2005-06.

Hilliard was held to nine points in last season’s 101-80 road loss to the Bluejays. Teammate JayVaughn Pinkston had 15 points in that contest but the senior forward was held to four and three boards Saturday, less than 24 hours after it was reported he violated the terms of his probation from a 2010 assault case.

In danger of its first losing season since 1995-96, Creighton tries to bounce back after blowing a 12-point lead in Saturday’s 67-66 loss at Seton Hall. Austin Chatman had 23 points but the Pirates’ Angel Delgado scored with 16 seconds left to help top the Bluejays, who have alternated wins and losses in the eight that followed a nine-game skid.

The only Bluejay in double-figure points at 11.0 per contest, Chatman is averaging 17.3 in the last three games but had nine and shot 3 of 14 in this season’s loss at Villanova. Creighton went a season-worst 4 of 21 from 3-point range in that contest.

The Bluejays have lost five straight against ranked opponents since a 65-63 home victory over then-No. 18 Oklahoma on Nov. 19.

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