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The last time St. John's and Creighton played each other we were all just speculating on how this BIG EAST season was going to shake out. It was the first conference game for both of these teams, sort of feeling one another out and trying to get through the awkward stages of their first date.
St. John's couldn't find an answer for senior center Geoffrey Groselle as he dumped in 22 points on 9-10 shooting, bullying the Red Storm down low and picking up 3 blocks. Mo Watson Jr., who we've all come to love and respect a great deal, scored 17 but turned the ball over five times, which is uncharacteristic of the junior point guard.
Malik Ellison had a game high of 17 points for the Red Storm in the affair. Durand Johnson also contributed 14. St. John's kept it close for the first half of play, keeping the Jays at bay with just a four point deficit. The Bluejays ended up getting a 14 point lead in the second half and never really relinquished it as they won 80-70. Here's our very own Andrew Padyk's recap of the game.
Verba de Ludis
Last night I witnessed a boxing match between a guy from Philly and a guy from Omaha. Before the match the guy from Philly - Hank Lundy - said he was going to beat the guy from Omaha -Terence Crawford - and claim the WBO belt and become champion. This sort of braggadocio tone was a bit far fetched as Crawford has yet to lose a match and Lundy had lost five, yet it gave the fight a bit of an interesting flair. It gave it a little more weight. It heightened the drama of the match and cast a bit of doubt into the minds of Crawford's supporters.
Lundy won the first round after landing a few more punches, which caused Crawford to change up a little bit and begin fighting southpaw. The sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden Theater began to stir a bit, and halfway through the third round the chants of 'Crawford! Crawford!' began echoing louder and louder as Crawford began to rally. Lundy came out of the round with a cut above his right eye.
Then, as the fifth round rolled in, Crawford went on the attack and knocked Lundy to the mat. Lundy, wobbled, rose to his feet only to get a blasted by an impressive combination by Crawford and the referee decided to save whatever dignity Lundy had left and ended the fight. Crawford remained a champion.
St. John's has had a bit of a resurgence since starting the conference slate at a low point. Head coach Chris Mullin knew this was going to be a transitional year and was well aware of the rebuild ahead. Growing pains are a bear to deal with, and when your team begins to lose a great deal of games in succession it becomes rather difficult for them to remember how to win. St. John's beat DePaul 11 days ago, earning their first conference victory of the year. They celebrated this win with an extremely close contest against Seton Hall in the Garden, which ended with both teams needing restraints as they came to fisticuffs at the end.
A rematch with DePaul waited in the wings. The Red Storm made a furious comeback after being down by double digits and clawed their way back. This sort of tenacity is something seldom seen from a team that's seemingly locked in the cellar. St. John's lost, but had this game taken place a month prior they may have laid down and just accepted defeat. This team refuses to die.
Creighton has been in a bizarre spot all year long. At times they were riding the highest of highs, beating great opponents with a surprisingly tenacious defense mixed in with a fluid fastbreak that would tear the hat off your head and send it flying into the east river. The post play from Groselle and Hanson was the perfect counterbalance to the prolific shooters waiting on the wings. On their best nights, Creighton looked like one of the best teams in the nation.
On their worst nights, Creighton looked like a puppy trying to climb stairs for the first time, waiting around and looking at everyone watching them and expressing a deep sadness in their eyes that seemed to ask, "why? Help us." The mantra of this Creighton basketball team has been 'Let it Fly,' yet when they do just that and watch their shots clang off the rim repeatedly, the mantra dies as drastically as it lived.
When the season initially began for the Bluejays it became clear that, somewhat like St. John's, it was going to be a transitional year. New point guard, new forward play, new pace. Yet what transpired were bright, hot flashes of excellence mixed with desperation to do more. On this afternoon, senior day will commence. Framed jerseys, photos, video tributes, and speeches will be doled out to honor shooting guard James Milliken and center Geoffrey Groselle. Some in the crowd might get misty eyed. Some might leave early to beat traffic.
Yet, this game doesn't have the added weight and drama I witnessed in the boxing match last night. This game's stakes don't need to be higher. This is a game the Bluejays should most certainly win with convincing margins. This should be Groselle's swan song, as St. John's doesn't have the depth to cover the big man from Texas. Most importantly, this is a Sunday afternoon affair in Omaha - the folks have already gone to church and had their breakfast - and the last opportunity to see this mixed bag of a basketball team play in the regular season at home. There will be emotions and reflections.
Like Crawford, though, the Bluejays will pace themselves and find a moment to attack and knock down their opponent from the east coast.