Creighton's 2014-15 season started off with promise and prosperity. A takedown of the Oklahoma Sooners in Omaha was its signature victory of the nonconference portion of their schedule, after storming back from being down by a double digit deficit in one of the season's best games of the year.
Creighton was also able to skate their way out of Lincoln and knock off their in-state rivals, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who are dealing with their own set of struggles this season as Big Ten play rolls on. The expectations were never supposed to be anything major for the Jays in 2014 after losing their superstar and his supporting cast, but the early season tests they passed gave a glimmer of hope and optimism.
Since then, it's all been downhill.
Going into Wednesday night's matchup with DePaul, Creighton had sputtered to a 2-4 record after the win over Nebraska. The losses have been to varying degrees. The Bluejays had lost to Saint Mary's in overtime and North Texas, on the road, by a combined eight points. The start to conference season hasn't gone the way they expected it to, as their margin of defeat in their first two games against Providence and Georgetown -- both on the road -- was by an average of 13.5 points.
Road games have not been kind at all to Creighton this year. In fact, they have won just two games away from Omaha this year and are 1-4 in "true" road games. This includes the aforementioned losses to North Texas, Providence and Georgetown, and a miserable outing in Tulsa where they lost by 13 to the Golden Hurricane.
Creighton welcomed the suddenly surging DePaul Blue Demons to CenturyLink Center Omaha. DePaul was 2-0, oozed confidence, and was looking to jump out to their first 3-0 start ever in Big East play. But given that the last two teams to beat Creighton in Omaha were Illinois State on February 9, 2013, and Saint Mary's on December 13, 2014, the odds the Blue Demons would send Creighton off their heels weren't exactly in their favor.
As we would find out, the Blue Demons had other ideas. A romping ensued, and despite a furious effort down the stretch, DePaul won a game that it had never found itself trailing and sent Creighton on its heels by the tally of 70-60.
The Bluejays are now 0-3 to kick off conference play. This is, according to Creighton athletics' official website, their worst start to a conference season since the 1993-94 campaign.
Here now, Derek Rayment and I will delve into the positives -- whatever ones there were -- and the negatives -- there will be plenty -- from Wednesday night's matchup. Let's get started.
+ It's hard to write a section on positives about a team that was beaten in every aspect of a game against DePaul. Was the positive that the game was indoors instead of outside where it was -25 below with windchill? If you dig deep enough though, you can find some positives in this game for the Jays. For instance, the Bluejays only committed 10 turnovers, their fewest amount since an overtime win over South Dakota back on December 9.
+ The game also saw freshman Toby Hegner nail five threes and score 15 points total, his highest scoring output since Creighton's win against Texas-Pan American. The Bluejays also continued their good shooting from the free throw line, going 10-for-12 from the charity stripe. Senior Avery Dingman played one of his better games of the season and really seemed to be one of the few Bluejays awake for last night's game. Dingman only went 2-for-3 from the field but was 6-for-7 from the free throw line, good for 10 total points, his second highest scoring output all season. Another positive from the game is that the sun came up the next day.
Where do we even begin?
- For starters, let's discuss how the game started. It was almost parallel to how the Bluejays sliced and diced the Villanova Wildcats with a prodigious 3-point pounding last January in Philadelphia. DePaul womped Creighton, in their own building, from the perimeter right out of the shoot. Forrest Robinson had a record-breaking performance... in the first SIX minutes of the game! Creighton was down, at one point, 20-5. We saw throughout the game that CU had some fight in them, but getting into this early hole, and it might as well have been a grave, was an unmitigated, unfathomable disaster.
- Although they won in the Turnover% battle, though by a slim margin, Creighton was pick-pocketed early and often. The Blue Demons came away with seven steals on Wednesday night compared to just three on the Bluejays' end. One of Creighton's weaknesses this year has been forcing turnovers. Of the 351 teams in Division 1, Creighton ranks 239th in TO% from a defensive standpoint. With the deficit that the Jays faced, it was almost imperative that they create opportunities to get more chances at scoring the basketball. With how the game shook out, this, beyond the hot start from DePaul, could have provided the difference.
- Amongst Dean Oliver's "Four Factors" (eFG%, OR%, TO%, FTRate) the only category that the Bluejays held an edge with was Turnover% with a mark of 15.9 percent (TO%). Elsewhere, they were knocked down by DePaul. In regards to eFG%, the Bluejays were soundly beaten 53.9 percent-43.8 percent, 33.3 percent-25.0 percent in Offensive Rebounding%, and 39.2 percent-21.05 percent in Free Throw Rate. The Bluejays may have kept up their great free throw shooting ways, but simply did not get to the line as many times as they needed to, with just 12 attempts from the line. Compared to their 57 field goal attempts, you see where the deficit can be found.
- By ORtg, Will Artino was the worst Bluejay on the floor as he posted a 77. With his point totals low, scoring just four, it continues an intriguing stretch for the big man who has played just 52 minutes in his last five games. This includes only seven minutes of action against North Texas, and six against Providence. You hate to see this from a senior like Artino, but it's clear that the big man has to start finding his way in order to be worthy of accumulating mileage.
What's on tap
The Bluejays will now have the unenviable task of welcoming in the Seton Hall Pirates to Omaha this Saturday. The Pirates are coming off of a loss to Xavier, who is unbeaten at home through this portion of the season, and they will no doubt be looking to avenge the sweep that the Bluejays had over them last year. For Creighton's sake, they'd better hope to bounce back and pull off a stunner to try and elude a devastating 0-4 hole.