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Alexander's fadeaway with 0.2 seconds left lifts No. 10 Creighton over Villanova 69-67

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Trey Alexander hit a fadeaway jumper with 0.2 seconds left and finished with 17 points to give No. 10 Creighton a 69-67 win over Villanova on Saturday.

Baylor Scheierman scored 11 of his 18 points in Creighton’s dominating first half. Ryan Kalkbrenner added 14 points for Creighton (23-8, 14-6 Big East), which clinched the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament. The victory also avenged a 68-66 overtime loss to Villanova on Dec. 20, giving Creighton a victory over every conference team this season.

Creighton coach Greg McDermott told Alexander last offseason after the junior guard bypassed the pros that he would have the ball in his hands at the ends of games.

“Today I delivered on that promise, and he delivered on what I thought would happen,” McDermott said.

Eric Dixon scored 25 points and Justin Moore had 17 points for Villanova (17-14, 10-10), which lost a game that it needed to better its chances at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“Tough, tough shot,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said.

Dixon was fouled and hit all three free throws with 23.6 seconds remaining to tie it at 67. Alexander then dribbled through the lane and hit a fadeaway from about 10 feet away with 0.2 seconds left.

“He’s one of the best in the country in that pull-up midrange shot,” McDermott said. "I don’t like those shots much, but I do when he takes them."

Alexander said it's a shot he has rehearsed for hours in practice, including watching film of NBA players using a similar fadeaway.

“I knew it was coming to me, and I knew what shot I wanted to take,” he said. “I work on those a lot. It was a shot I knew I was going to take. It’s just continuous reps.”

While the Bluejays are a lock for an NCAA tourney berth, the Wildcats likely will need a deep run in the conference tournament to avoid missing March Madness for the second straight season in both years under Neptune.

Neptune replaced Hall of Famer Jay Wright following the 2022 season when Wright surprisingly retired after leading Villanova to the Final Four. Villanova won a pair of championships, in 2016 and 2018, under Wright.

“We all understand the situation,” Neptune said. “Everyone in this room, all the fans know it, but for us it doesn’t really do us any good to focus on it. We have to focus on what we can do each day to prepare ourselves to play Villanova basketball for 40 minutes. That’s the best way to put ourselves in the best possible position.”

The Wildcats fell behind early and trailed by 11 points at the half. They twice cut the second-half deficit to seven points, but the Bluejays surged ahead 63-49 with 6:14 remaining.

Villanova made a furious final push. The Wildcats scored 12 straight points, getting five apiece from Mark Armstrong and Dixon, before Moore’s layup ended the run to pull the Wildcats within 63-61 with 2:34 left. After a Kalkbrenner hook, Moore’s 3-pointer with 1:33 to play made it 65-64. Kalkbrenner dunked to push Creighton’s lead to 67-64 with 59 seconds remaining.

After TJ Bamba’s steal of Steven Ashworth with 34 seconds to play, Dixon made the three free throws before Alexander's clutch shot. Bamba threw a long inbounds pass to Dixon, whose shot at the buzzer was off.

“We knew we had to play much better and play with a sense of pride and urgency, and our guys did that,” Neptune said. “I was proud of the way our guys battled to the very end.”

The Bluejays were up 21-3 early in the first half, which resulted in a Neptune timeout as boos rained down on the Wildcats from the home fans at the school’s alternate home court at the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Philadelphia 76ers.

“We got off to a ridiculous start, and we were fortunate we did,” McDermott said.

UP NEXT

Creighton: Plays in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament on Thursday in New York against the winner of the No. 7 vs. No. 10 seeds.

Villanova: Plays in the first round of the conference tournament on Wednesday in New York.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball