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#9 Creighton beats Arizona State 96-85 in Tempe

Isaiah Zierden poured in trey after trey as he came alive in the desert.

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jays soak nylon in arid conditions to down Devils

What a brilliant night of shooting from beyond the arc for Creighton, with Isaiah Zierden rising from the ashes and collecting buckets.

What transpired in the first few moments of this game were mirror images to how the game against Oral Roberts transpired; Maurice Watson Jr., seemingly completely out of rhythm, giving up careless turnovers. It appeared he wanted to play at a gear higher than his feet and hands would allow; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering his head is constantly up, aware of the game, aware of his player’s positions, but they weren’t ready for the hurricane he wanted to drown this desert in.

Soon, the Jays were in a 9-0 hole. The crowd here in Tempe became incensed, as they should. Rarely does a top 10 team stroll in and lay an egg, and with all the woes the Sun Devils have faced this year, it was a welcome beginning.

Yet as all games go with the Jays, they can string points together very quickly, stacking their points in large blocks as opposed to spreading them out. Isaiah Zierden, who has been chided by the Creighton faithful for his relative invisibility, came out hot, hitting three of his four attempted three pointers in the first half, the first of which began the eventual steamroll the Jays would perform.

Khyri Thomas was sat early in the half with two fouls, which opened the door for Zierden, but without Khyri’s defensive prowess it became clear that ASU was going to keep pace with the Jays. They did exactly that.

Torian Graham and Tra Holder were the steady hands that guided the Sun Devils, scoring 22 of their 40 points in the first half. They were able to get tempo threes and drives to the basket in bucketfulls, causing the Jays to scramble on the defensive end, seemingly unable to stop the duo.

Halftime score - 45-40 Jays

The second half trickled in with a pretty loud thump from Maurice Watson Jr, who proceeded to score 4 points on the first two possessions and provided the spark Creighton needed to start the half as the Jays pushed their lead to ten points after a couple of nice plays by Justin Patton, including a sneak-in dunk, then Arizona State decided to leave Marcus Foster wide open in the corner for three. The lead stood at 56-46 at the first media timeout of the second half.

From then on it was a back and forth affair until Creighton finally busted through the floodgates. At one point Khyri offered up an inbound lob to JP, who, instead of jamming it down the rim in a vicious and unforgiving nature, simply lofted it gently towards the hoop where it settled nicely.

What transpired after that was a three from Khyri, a bucket from Patton, a three from Zierden, and the Jays were up by twenty.

It was over.

Or so I thought.

At around the 9:30 mark Maurice Watson Jr was pulled from the game and replaced by Tyler Clement. Tyler Clement, God bless him, just doesn’t have the handles that Watson has. ASU utilized a kamikaze attack on the poor kid from Kansas, throwing bodies at him just past the half court line. Eventually he just lost the orange orb and the Sun Devils had an easy pathway to two points.

The lead for Creighton dwindled, dwindled, dwindled all the way down to 10 points by the 5 minute mark. A Marcus Foster and-one pushed the lead back to 13.

There were little things Creighton did down the stretch that added to their success. Khyri Thomas had a fastbreak opportunity, a 2-on-2 with Foster as his wingman, yet instead of forcing something to the basket he just backed out, fed Watson, who ended up feeding Foster for his 25th point.

Then, Mo Watson fouled out. Suddenly my mind was awash with the shades of the Georgetown game from the year previous. I soon sunk into a frenzied depression, not knowing whether things were worth it or not. It was just a 12 point game, after all!

I remembered that Marcus Foster and Justin Patton existed and both were playing and soon my worries went away. ASU began fouling early and often and Creighton rose to the occasion.

Overall, it was a prolific three point shooting night for the Jays as they went on to shoot 56% from three on 14-25 shooting.