Powered behind junior guard Marcus Zegarowski’s season-high 25 points, the No. 19 Bluejays defeated No. 5 Villanova 86-70 at CHI on Saturday.
His performance earned him the national player of the week honor.
“I try to stay aggressive as much as possible, whether that’s scoring, whether that’s making plays for my teammates. I thought my teammates got me going early on; they found me which opened things up for them as well,” Zegarowski said. “It was a great team win.”
Zegarowski, who was picked as Big East preseason player of the year in October, has battled injury and continuous recovery this season to land at Saturday’s breakthrough performance.
With the win, Creighton sits one game behind the Wildcats in the conference with four games left before the Big East tournament.
Villanova, who tops the Big East, is a consistent opponent year after year according to coach Greg McDermott, and he said this year that was no different.
“They’re as disciplined offensively as any team we face and to hang with them you have to be equally as disciplined defensively,” McDermott said. “I thought our guys did that today and as a result we got out in transition some and the pace of the game was a little more to our liking as a result of that.”
Part of that defensive power was in the paint, where Creighton had a 36-20 edge over the Wildcats and 10 more defensive rebounds.
Zegarowski held Villanova’s Collin Gillespie - an All-American candidate - to just eight points.
On the offensive end, Creighton had a cohesive and complete performance from its starting five.
Senior forward Damien Jefferson and junior forward Christian Bishop each pulled away with double-doubles on Saturday, afternoon while senior guard Mitch Ballock hit six shots from 3-point range to tally 20 points of his own.
“It comes from preparation,” Zegarowski said. “In practice we really work on offense and we really work on moving the ball, making plays for others and that translated to today’s game and that’s what we did.”
After moving up to No. 14 in Monday’s rankings, the Bluejays now have a break until Feb. 24 when they face off against DePaul in another Big East contest at CHI.
McDermott said the team will use the time to rest and focus on ways to keep the momentum high to finish the regular season. As for Zegarowski, he’s taking in the rest of the season the best he can.
“You gotta enjoy this, I think we’re really lucky we’re able to play right now,” he said.