Following a difficult home loss to Providence that saw Creighton score just 48 points, Sunday's offensive effort was a welcome sight for Bluejay fans. Isaiah Zierden went off, scoring 31 points, which included eight made 3-point field goals, and the Bluejays snapped out of an early funk to run up 91 points on the Blue Demons, in Chicago.
DePaul started the game well, racing out to an 11-0 lead at the under-16 timeout. They led by as many as 12 early, but Creighton's offense (second in the league at 83.1 points-per-game) heated up and didn't slow down, scoring 47 first-half points and carrying that momentum into the second half. The Blue Demons struggled to keep the Creighton guards out of the lane, leading to a flurry of easy baskets and uncontested threes, most of which came from Isaiah Zierden.
DePaul was able to stay in the game and make a late push that saw the lead cut to three points with just over three minutes to play, but was not able to fully close the gap. Myke Henry and Eli Cain led four DePaul players in double figures with 21 points each.
For Creighton, Maurice Watson Jr. (17 points, 6 assists) and James Milliken (14 points) spent the day in the lane, repeatedly penetrating the DePaul defense, leading to open looks for Zierden and others.
Here are three things we learned from this game:
1. Isaiah Zierden
Zierden was on fire, scoring a career-high 31 points, 17 coming in the second half. The junior guard came into the contest averaging 11.3 points-per-game, but kept finding open space and taking advantage of it. Zierden was 9-of-12 from the field and 8-of-11 from behind the three-point line, and added three free throws on four attempts to total his 31 points. The effort was much needed, as the Blue Demons kept hanging around and brought the score within one possession late. With just under 2 minutes to play and the Bluejays leading 78-75, Zierden was fouled on a drive to the lane and calmly sank two free throws to extend the Creighton lead to a more manageable five.
2. DePaul's Offensive Balance
The Blue Demons had it going on offense, boasting four players in double figures and shooting 31-of-57 from the field, good for a 54.4 field-goal percentage. Eli Cain, the Blue Demons fifth leading scorer at 7.8 points-per-game, put together a nice game, scoring 21 points on efficient shooting numbers. The 6-6 freshman was able to do some damage both inside and out on the smaller Creighton guards, and looked the part of a future volume scorer for DePaul.
Myke Henry and Tommy Hamilton also put together nice offensive days, totaling 21 and 13 points respectively. Henry scored two late baskets in a run that saw DePaul cut the Creighton lead to three, 78-75, before fouling out. Billy Garrett Jr., the team's leading scorer, had a nice floor game and finished with 10 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds, but struggled from the field, making just 4-of-12 shots and missing all four of his three-point attempts.
3. Creighton's BIG EAST Start
The Bluejays sit at 4-2, tied with Georgetown for third place one-third of the way through BIG EAST play. This was a much needed win, coming on the heels of a difficult loss at home against Providence, and preceding a stretch of schedule that includes visits from Butler and Seton Hall, and trips to Georgetown and Villanova.
Creighton used great ball movement and hot shooting (30-of-57 from the field) to build a lead that DePaul couldn't overcome, and will be a tough out on nights when the offense is clicking. They received contributions across the board, with five players scoring in double figures. The next four games will be a good indication of how consistent this team can be, both offensively and defensively. A few wins in those upcoming four games will put the conference on notice, and continue to solidify the Bluejays' case as a potential NCAA Tournament team.