With the title on the line, the Jays showed something they hadn’t all season long.
Tenacity. Comeback ability. TOBY! Hegner.
Marcus Foster willed this team in the first half. Khyri Thomas carried them in the second half. Zach Hanson looks to be sidelined with an ankle injury that he sustained in the second half, but it appeared to spur the Jays on to victory. There’s something special here with this squad, to be on the ropes as they were, to come away with such a thrilling victory.
Hang your hat on trophies, man, because they’re something to be proud of. The Jays laid waste to Washington State and NC State, then had to battle a lengthy and physical Ole Miss hoops squad. I got tired just watching it, I’m sure you did too.
On to the recap!
The first half sure was something.
Creighton overall looked sluggish against Ole Miss’s press, which devolved into a zone. McDermott has always had trouble with the zone, but this was something of different proportions as the Old White Guys’ were able to clean up on the glass with every Bluejay miss. Deandre Burnett was a guy Creighton had to shut down, but his tempo 3’s were killer, as he finished with 11 points in the first half.
Rasheed Brooks doesn’t normally start for Ole Miss, but he was lights out in the first half, shooting 4-7 from beyond the arc and managed to kill any semblance of an offensive run the Jays had to offer.
With the length and tenacity of that Ole Miss lineup, it became clear pretty quick that getting rebounds was going to be a chore. It turned out to be the turning point, as Creighton had less rebounds than Ole Miss had offensive rebounds, with the Old White Guys cashing in on second chance opportunities to the tune of 17 points in the first half.
One glowing bright spot for the Jays was the play of Marcus Foster, as he managed to accumulate nearly half of Creighton’s first half points with 17. He shot 6-10 from the field, including 3-4 from beyond the arc.
Creighton struggled on defense as Khyri Thomas bowed out early in the first half with two fouls, leaving Isaiah Zierden guarding Burnett. Though Zierden is normally a pretty nails defender, but against a phenomenal scorer in Burnett, it was an inept match-up.
1st half score - Ole Miss 46 - Creighton 40
The second half started with a lot of Ole Miss momentum. They scored on the first possession, then the Jays turned the ball over, only for Ole Miss to score again. The Ole Miss lead was 10 and the Jays looked relatively dead in the water.
Cole Huff played his usual phenomenal self, nailing a three to cut the Ole Miss lead to 7. From there until the waning moments of the game, the Jays locked down on defense and slowly chipped away at their deficit.
Nothing came easy for Ole Miss in the second half; nearly everything was contested. The wide open looks that they utilized in the first half slowly disappeared while everything they took to the rim was met with a body. They weren’t able to get back into rhythm on the offensive side, but their zone-trap defense was paying off in dividends.
Until it didn’t. For some bizarre reason, they switched back to man-to-man defense, which allowed Creighton to utilize their pick and roll offense. This gave Creighton a real opportunity to put a dent into the lead - which they capitalized on greatly.
Toby Hegner was magnificent in the second half. He hit back to back threes to cut the lead down to one, which was immediately turned around by Deandre Burnett, who grew the lead to five with 10:50 left.
After two phenomenal plays by Foster and Hanson, Hegner would step up to the three point line and put in another - to put the Jays up by two.
It felt like the tide had turned completely by then, with Ole Miss beginning to show a great bit of fatigue. After that, the game was tied twice, and then Justin Patton broke the game open with an absolutely monstrous alley-oop reception from Maurice Watson Jr., which would push the lead to 5 with 2:46 remaining.
The Jays would then cruise from there to seal the win, with Khyri Thomas nailing a three and Maurice Watson Jr., diving through the trees to score a patented Mo Watson layup, polishing the game off as the lead grew to 8 with under a minute left.
Marcus Foster was named Paradise Jam MVP. Cole Huff was named to the Paradise Jam first team all-tournament, an honor that solidifies his reputation as a fantastic neutral-site player.