On Saturday afternoon, the Creighton Bluejays welcomed Sterling Gibbs and the Seton Hall Pirates to Omaha. Several people, myself included, expected that this matchup wouldn't be much of a contest. The Pirates, ranked within the Top 20 at the time, were expected to mow through their competition and send Creighton reeling into a tailspin.
As fate would have it, the Bluejays refused to lie down. They scrapped with Seton Hall for the entirety of the contest. But while the Pirates didn't run over their adversaries, they did thrust them off the tracks. A late 3-pointer in the waning moments by Gibbs, The Hall's MVP to this point in the 2014-15 campaign, vaulted The Hall into the lead and eventually smack dab into the win column as well.
Four days later, Creighton was at it again. This time around, they traveled to the unfriendly confines of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Marquette Golden Eagles, a team that much like the Jays, are in transition. Gone is much of the roster from the previous season, and the future certainly looks much brighter than the present time. Like Creighton, MU has given opposing teams fits even if they haven't been on the winning side of things too often this season. They've been excellent in forcing turnovers and limiting chances inside, as evident by their defensive numbers.
In this tilt, it was nothing short of a low-scoring affair. The end was all too familiar for Creighton fans, however. Matt Carlino's late-game heroics propelled Marquette to its 10th win of the season while the Bluejays suffered loss number nine on the year, and its sixth defeat in a row.
Let's examine what went down in this game, and see if we can figure out why the Bluejays are in the mess that they're currently in.
+ A positive for the Jays is that they did not get routed. In their last two games, they've hung around and quarreled with their opponents. The narrow deficit was not only found in points, but in points per possession too. Marquette scored only 0.88 points per possession, while Creighton scored 0.87. Neither of those marks are very good, but while moral victories should be kept at a minimum, the Bluejays put up a pretty commendable effort inside one of the Big East's most hostile environments.
+ Will Artino stepped up and delivered a very good performance. With an ORtg of 97, Artino scored eight points, shooting 4-for-7 from the field, grabbed six rebounds and had two assists to boot. Tip of the cap to him.
+ Creighton won in the OR% department, 29.7 percent-14.8 percent. They also won inside, outshooting MU 44.8 percent-39.1 percent.
+ Rick Krekow was the star for Creighton on Wednesday. Kreklow scored a team-high 13 points, added four rebounds, an assist and three steals too in 22 minutes with just one turnover.
- Creighton only scored 21 first half points. Creighton has had many terrible halves of basketball this season. Chief among them have been the first half against North Texas, the second half against Middle Tennessee State and we can go ahead and throw the first half against Marquette in there as well. The Bluejays haven't put together a complete game of basketball all season against a quality opponent. The Marquette game was just another example. The Jays finished the first half with three straight three-pointers. Up until that point the Jays had only scored 12 points and were down 26-12 with 2:30 left.
- The Bluejays finished the game 7-for-26 from downtown, good (or bad) for 27 percent. That seems pretty terrible right? Well, for Creighton this season that actually is about par for the course as they're shooting 33 percent for the season from beyond the arc. How Creighton was even up two points with a few seconds left is sort of amazing considering how poorly they performed in an area they have prided themselves in going back to Kyle Korver's days.
- Creighton also only went 5-for-8 from the free throw line, an area that McDermott presses his teams to succeed in. One major factor in the loss to Marquette was the poor performance of Austin Chatman. The senior guard only scored two points, going 1-for-6 from the field. If the Jays are going to start winning some games, they need their leading scorer to start playing the way he's capable of playing.
What's on tap
Next up for Creighton is a meeting with the Providence Friars. The Friars gave them fits on New Year's Eve, romping them at The Dunk in a double-digit loss. The last time these two teams met in Omaha, Doug McDermott had a record-setting night. Suffice it to say, it might take a Herculean effort from someone on this Bluejays team to get back into the win column. The games aren't getting much easier, with the most brutal stretch of their schedule starting on January 21 where they'll travel to Hinkle Fieldhouse, The Pavilion, Cintas Center and Madison Square Garden as part of a six-game stretch to February 7.