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#7 Creighton triumphs over #22 Xavier 72-67 in a mind-numbing affair

A marathon of games today turned into a test of mental mettle.

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

REFS CLAIM MORAL VICTORY IN TERRIBLE BASKETBALL GAME

From the jump it appeared as if Creighton’s effort on defense and offense were going to be enough to properly down the 22nd ranked Musketeers early on in the first half. Jumping out to a 10 point lead within the first five minutes, it looked like a rout in the making especially with Edmond Sumner starting on the bench.

Alas, the tide of basketball momentum turned in the Musketeer’s favor, punishing the Bluejays on the glass while simultaneously slowing down the pace of the game. More often than not, JP Macura would pop out from the floorboards and make a ridiculous hustle play to retain or regain possessions.

Then, Maurice Watson Jr. went down with an apparent knee injury after banging knees with Edmond Sumner, which sent him to the bench while freshman Davion Mintz spelled him for a short duration. Xavier immediately went on a 8-0 run which caused Greg McDermott to check Watson back into the game after taking a timeout.

As Watson took the ball up the court he had a visible limp, struggling to get into his usual pace, yet he persevered. He was able to do this a few more times before taking the ball to the rim in classic Mo fashion, only to land hard on his left leg, causing it to buckle, sending the senior point guard crashing to the floor

He’d lay there for a while, grimacing and squirming, before Kobe Paras and Jordan Scurry picked him up off the floor and carried him to the locker room.

In his place was Isaiah Zierden, a solid option as far as ball handling and knowledge of the offense, as well as a solid option on defense. Davion Mintz, though he has a wealth of potential, still lags a bit behind on his defensive progress, which is why Zierden got the nod.

Somehow, someway, Creighton ended the first half with a three point lead at 32-29.

There was clearly a bit of homecooking for the Musketeers today, with JP Macura utilizing his forearm to create space whilst wielding the basketball. Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett were guilty of much of the same, a move that’s normally frowned upon, yet was called perhaps once.

Alas, it didn’t matter too much as both teams finally got it going from outside the arc in the second half. Xavier took the lead a couple times during the second half stretch, but Creighton still maintained a lead for a majority of the half.

With 9 minutes left, Chris Mack got T’d up after a no call on a Gaston post play that led to a block call on Khyri Thomas on the return drive to the bucket. This gave Isaiah Zierden time to put in some easy free throws while Thomas scored on the following possession, giving the Jays a 9 point lead at 59-50.

Perhaps I was wrong when I called it ‘homecooking’ earlier in this post. Perhaps these were referees who were just really bad today, because they were exactly that. Terrible. What’s worse is that Xavier was unable to hit some free throws as the game wore on, which led to game stoppages that turned into zero points.

It was an ugly, awful game especially as it wound down. Toby Hegner was absolutely magnificent for the Jays on his birthday, tossing in a wide open three to silence the momentum building Musketeers. They weren’t silent for long, as Edmond Sumner climbed the ladder and threw down one vicious, devastating dunk:

After that dunk, until the 1:53 mark, the lead never grew to more than two for the Jays.

Edmond Sumner drove to the basket and drew contact against Cole Huff, scoring on the drive but missed the free throw. With the game tied with 1:30 left Cole Huff backed into the post and lost the ball off his leg - yet on the replay it was clear that it was off Xavier.

On the ensuing possession, JP Macura bricked his first free throw after getting fouled by Isaiah Zierden, but sank his second to take a 67-66 lead. Greg McDermott immediately called a timeout on the return trip down the court.

Last year it was clear that Mo Watson was Creighton’s clutch scorer in the waning moments in close games like these. Without someone possessing that killer instinct on the hardwood for the Jays, it wasn’t clear who’d get that final moment shot.

As it turns out, it was Justin Patton cleaning up the offensive glass as he managed a tip in a Marcus Foster miss.

Edmond Sumner drove and missed a lay-up, which led to a flurry of misses down low by Gaston, with Cole Huff inevitably getting the board and getting fouled by JP Macura. It was a bizarre display of ineptitude down low for Xavier, unable to connect from directly under the rim at least three times. All those missed free throws came back to bite them, and bite them hard.

Cole Huff sank both of his free throws on the other end. Xavier rolled the ball up the court, collected it, burned about two seconds, and called time out. Now it was Chris Mack’s turn to draw up a dynamite play, which he sort of failed to do as Trevon Bluiett, who has been maligned by poor shooting as of late, bricked a three pointer while the ever precious clock wound down.

Khyri Thomas would grab the board off the Bluiett miss, get fouled, sink both free throws, and end the game even after an Edmond Sumner drive to the bucket that inevitably clanged off the rim.


Stats and Stuff

Creighton maintained the lead for 87% of the game.

CREIGHTON
XAVIER