Tonight the ball is dropping in Times Square to ring in the New Year, but today the ball dropped on the floor of the Carnesecca Arena to ring in the start of Big East play for the Red Storm of St. John's and the Bluejays of Creighton.
Today's game featured two teams who exited nonconference play with different sets of fortunes. St. John's came into today seeking to exercise the demons of their three-game losing streak, whereas Creighton were heading into today coming off of shooting the ball at a torrid pace in back to back 100+ point games against North Texas and Coppin State.
The shooting for Creighton would continue today, thanks in large part to Geoffrey Groselle who had another banner day. Groselle finished with a game-leading 22 points on 9 of 10 shooting and 4-of-7 from the foul line. Groselle had the hot hand today as he made his first eight shots, continuing his torrid pace from the previous two games where he shot 16-of-17.
Groselle, though, was not the only shining star for the Bluejays, as Creighton had a whole nest of high flying Bluejays to call on. Maurice Watson, Jr. finished the day with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and a game leading 8 assists, James Milliken had himself an 11 point day on 3-of-6 shooting and 3-of-5 from the foul line. To round it all off, Cole Huff had himself a double-double day of 16 points on 3-of-12 shooting and 8-of-8 from the foul line, and a game leading mark of 11 rebounds.
As a team Creighton shot the ball today at a rate of 46.4% from all areas of the floor, 31.8% from three point range, and 72.4% from the foul line.
On the other side of the ball was St. John's, who were looking to get their season back on track with an early Big East win. Today was also the first Big East game for a number of players on the fresh faced St. John's roster, though four of them have played in at least one Big East game including Durand Johnson whose last Big East game was for Pittsburgh. On another note of interest, the last time St. John's won a conference opener was 2011 against Providence.
With all of that in mind, St. John's did have their moments today of coming close. At the end of the first half, Creighton only led by a difference of four points, but the Johnnies could never close the gap, as Creighton took off in the second half.
Much like Creighton, the Johnnies did see a whole host of performances today as Malik Ellison lead the way with a 17 point game on 5-of-7 shooting and 6-of-6 from the foul line, Durand Johnson finished with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and finally Yankuba Sima finished today with 11 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Among the blemishes for the Red Storm, though, was the fact that Federico Mussini, who was stellar to start the season, has lost his touch in the last few games. He made 1-of-5 today from beyond the arc which now puts him at 1-of-12 from three point range.
As a team, the Red Storm shot 42.2% from all areas of the floor, 30.8% from beyond the three point line, and 63.2% from the foul line. Also of note, both teams finished with the same mark in rebounds at 39 a piece. Statistically speaking, this game nearly had identical performances from both teams.
Creighton got their Big East campaign off on the right foot, while St. John's looked better but still have a bit to go. Next up on the docket for Creighton will be a their home opener against Villanova on Saturday, while St. John's makes the trek up to Providence for a game against the Friars, also on Saturday.