I can't prove it, but I think Creighton just put on a cheat code.
The unranked Bluejays, fresh off an 81-68 loss at Providence on Saturday, knocked down their first nine three-point attempts and buried 21 of 35 overall en route to an 96-68 thumping of No. 4 Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Monday night.
As ESPN Stats & Info noted, the Big East newcomer, which built a 90-50 lead with 6:36 remaining before eventually coasting to the victory, set a new conference record with its scintillating performance from beyond the arc:
Creighton's 21 3-pointers are a Big East record. The previous record of 20 was shared by Notre Dame (Feb. 2011) & West Virginia (Jan. 2006)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2014
Doug McDermott, arguably college basketball's best offensive player, was his typical efficient self, pouring in 23 points on 8-of-13 from the field and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. But the man of the night was Ethan Wragge.
The 6'7" bearded senior showed why he is known as one of the best shooters in the country. Wragge knocked down his first seven three-point attempts and finished 9-of-14 from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 27 points.
As Creighton's Twitter feed pointed out, he tied a school record set by a guy who's currently busy setting other shooting records in the NBA:
Ethan Wragge for 3! His ninth trey of the game ties Kyle Korver's single-game record at Creighton. Timeout Nova, CU up 68-45 with 13:59 left— Creighton Bluejays (@gocreighton) January 21, 2014
Wragge, who likely took single-digit dribbles on the night, is a catch-and-shoot assassin. The old joke about "range as soon as he steps inside the gym" was probably made for him, and if there were four-pointers, he would definitely be taking those.
Head coach Greg McDermott, via Adam Zagoria, put it mildly after the rout:
"This was incredible, Ethan [Wragge] was really locked in." --- Greg McDermott on the Nova win to Bill Raftery.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) January 21, 2014
Yeah, I'd say so.
Fellow senior Jahenns Manigat chipped in 19 points, while Austin Chatman orchestrated the flawless offensive performance by Creighton with 10 assists and just two turnovers, as the Bluejays tallied a video game-like 1.66 points per shot and a silly 1.45 points per possession.
As John Ezekowitz stated, that absurd number was even bigger before McDermott left the court:
@JohnGasaway More impressive: Creighton scored 84 points on 53 possessions before taking out McDermott. 1.59 PPP.— John Ezekowitz (@JohnEzekowitz) January 21, 2014
And, let's not forget: This wasn't Jack Taylor and Grinnell College embarrassing a Division III school thanks to a gimmicky offensive system and an overwhelmed opponent.
This was against Villanova, the fourth-ranked team in the nation that boasted Ken Pomeroy's eight-best defense in America. And it was on the road, where Creighton hadn't beaten a Top 25 opponent since Saturday Night Fever was No. 1 in the box office, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Creighton had lost its last 25 true road games vs ranked teams. Previous win: Jan. 28, 1978 vs 13th-ranked Indiana State (led by Larry Bird)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2014
Oh yeah, and it was without starting point guard Grant Gibbs.
All things considered—the mind-boggling, beautiful offensive performance, the strength of opponent, the road factor, the fact the Bluejays let a 28-point first-half lead slip to just 13 at the break and yet still built their lead to 40 in the second half—makes this one of the most unbelievable games you'll see in quite some time.
Of course, it's important to remember in all of this, Villanova is still a force to be reckoned with come March. Jay Wright's squad shouldn't be completely left off the hook, but it ran into a team that couldn't miss. As Grantland's Mark Titus put it, it was "just one of those nights":
BTW Nova isn't a fraud. Just 1 of those nights. Jays shoot like this every game, they win natl title by 30. Nothing Nova (or anyone) can do.— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) January 21, 2014
The rematch, at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, is on Feb. 16. You can bet the Wildcats will be ready for those Wragge Bombs, but as evidenced tonight, Creighton can play with—and beat—anyone in America.