The Creighton Bluejays hit the hardwood on New Year's Eve and were promptly smacked by the Providence Friars by double digits. In the aftermath of that loss, Creighton was set to hit the road again, venturing down I-95 to the Nation's Capital.
Waiting for them were the Georgetown Hoyas. The Hoyas were a team that came into this year with high praise and expectations based off of a loaded recruiting class and a bevy of returning talent. This, of course, includes the preseason Big East Player of the Year D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, as well as Jabril Trawick and big man Joshua Smith, a former transfer from the UCLA Bruins.
The Hoyas and Bluejays split their matchups in the 2014 edition of the conference season. Creighton beat Georgetown in the teams' first matchup in Omaha in late January by double digits, and the boys from Washington, D.C. promptly returned the favor in an early March encounter, smacking the Jays by double digits and holding the usually spectacular Doug McDermott to 22 points whilst shooting an abysmal 9-of-23 from the field.
Coming into the 2015 meetings, the results were expected to be more like the second matchup more than the first one. For good reason, too. Creighton has been sluggish in their last few games, and Georgetown, despite being pounded in Cincinnati by the up-and-down Xavier Musketeers, had been turning the corner, with a notable overtime victory against Indiana at Madison Square Garden standing out.
And as fate would have it, that was exactly what happened. Creighton's shooting numbers were subpar -- especially from the 3-point line -- and this lack of efficiency on the scoreboard and from the field ultimately drove the Bluejays to lose by 16 points, and faced an 18 point deficit with 2:51 remaining in the final period. Creighton now stands at 0-2 in conference play, with things not getting any easier as they will host a DePaul team that's a surprising 2-0 in conference this Wednesday before welcoming in the Seton Hall Pirates on Saturday, a team that also boasts an undefeated record in conference play, having knocked off the two giants of the conference so far in Villanova and St. John's.
For now, Derek Rayment and I will take a look at Creighton's pros and cons from this game, as we look to decipher what brought CU to this disappointing 0-2 start.
The Bluejays have been outstanding at limiting offensive rebounding chances this year. From the 2010-11 season to the 2013-14 season, Creighton finished, on average, in ~19th place in America in this category. Saturday wasn't any different for the Jays. Georgetown was held to an OR% of just 19.0 percent, picking up only four on 21 total chances in the game. Creighton dominated on the boards, if we're being completely frank here. They picked up a DR% of a staggering 81.0 percent, grabbing 17 of them on the night. While Georgetown edged them with 20, their DR% was just 55.6 percent as they allowed Creighton to grab 16 offensive boards. This was perhaps the biggest plus of the game for CU, and while no one should be in the business of moral victories, to see them making strides in the rebounding department is a huge positive.
Credit should be given where credit is due, and Zach Hanson deserves quite a lot of it. The 6-foot-9 sophomore picked up 31 percent of Creighton's 61 points, scoring 11 while shooting 4-for-7 on his 2-point attempts. Adding a mark of 3-of-4 from the free throw line, Hanson stood out with an ORtg of 120 in just 15 minutes of action.
3-point shooting was the hallmark of the 2013-14 Bluejays. This season, it has to be free throw shooting. Seldom have we had to worry at all while the Jays get their free chances this season, and that certainly continued on Saturday afternoon. Netting their season average to 75.4 percent -- good for 17th best in the country -- Creighton shot a blistering 82.8 percent from the free throw line. Four Jays -- Toby Hegner, Geoffrey Groselle, James Milliken and Leon Gilmore III -- made all of their chances from the charity stripe. Austin Chatman and Devin Brooks led the team with a combined 16 free throws on the night -- each grabbing eight of them. Say what you will about this team's dip in offensive production, but it's clear that Greg McDermott is making sure that free throws continue to be a point of emphasis. For what it's worth, while McDermott has been the head coach, the Bluejays have never finished worse than 60th in the country in FT%, with their best performance coming in the 2012-13 season when they finished 12th best in Division 1.
There have been quite a few negatives to speak of in the past few games for the Bluejays. The game against Georgetown was full of them.
When size and athleticism isn't your thing, you have to make up for it in other areas. Creighton did this last season with unprecedented shooting and efficiency from beyond the arc. This season however has seen that good shooting dip and in the game against Georgetown, the Bluejays shot just 30.8 percent from the floor and just 20 percent from downtown. Creighton got some open looks early and buried them, giving Bluejay fans hope for an upset on the road. That shooting deserted them in the second half as the Hoyas steamed out ahead and never looked back.
Leading scorer Austin Chatman was just 1-for-8 from the field and 0-for-5 from three. If Creighton wants to compete in games, they're going to need the Chatman that was 7-for-11 at Nebraska. The same could be said for second leading scorer Isaiah Zierden, who went 3-for-11 from the field against Georgetown and just 2-for-8 from three. Creighton now ranks 253rd in the nation in total field goal percentage.
While terrible shooting played a big role in the loss to the Hoyas, turnovers and poor defense is also to blame. Creighton finished the game with 14 turnovers and surrendered 43 second half points to Georgetown after allowing just 13 points the first 10 minutes of the game. Another factor in the loss to Georgetown was foul trouble. Starting freshman forward Toby Hegner had to sit large portions of the game due to foul trouble while senior Rick Kreklow fouled out.