ROSEMONT, ILL - Marcus Foster shushed the crowd after hitting just his third shot of the night. Northwestern coach Chris Collins called his late basket a dagger. That’s what Marcus Foster does.
For the rest of crunch time in Wednesday’s high-flying showcase, a 92-88 Creightoh win over Northwestern, Khyri Thomas, a noted defensive specialist who took turns on Northwestern’s three best scorers, made a bigger impact on the offensive end.
Ironically, Creighton made its last basket off of a Thomas airball, rebounded and put back by Martin Krampelj. The Blue Jays got one of their stars the ball, but one of their supporting cast overwhelmed the Wildcats. That’s how it went at Allstate Arena, where Creighton’s bench filled in the gaps around its stars.
Creighton ran the same play six times late in the game, getting Thomas the ball in the post with shooters running around him. The pseudo point guard was distributing from the post. This wasn’t your grandfather’s offense, and the Wildcats couldn’t stop it.
Thomas didn’t take control of the game, though, until the second half. The first was Ty-Shon Alexander’s, the top 60 ESPN recruit who gave the Blue Jays a 15-point lead early on. His shoes were white. His sock was blue. For longer than Creighton fans hoped, both were visible.
He played a minute in the first half wobbling around without a shoe that fell off and was thrown to the side. His teammates were waving it at him when he came back down the floor, but he didn’t want it. Creighton escaped the the stretch, and Alexander came out of the next timeout thriving.
With 11 points in 14 first half minutes, Alexander ran the offense and integrated Creighton’s bigs early. He was the reason the Bluejays outscored Northwestern in the paint early, until he stopped passing. Greg McDermott called a timeout before halftime to draw a play for Foster to get the ball out of Alexander’s hands.
He only made one more basket in the last 20 minutes. That’s when Foster and Thomas picked up the slack.
Against the #20 ranked Wildcats, Creighton looked to have the formula that can last until March. Depth, size, an x-factor, and a duo that Northwestern’s point guard Bryant McIntosh said look a lot like the best he’s faced in the Big Ten over the last four years.
That complement from the Wildcats’ leader will probably be a precursor to the Associated Press’ next week when the new polls come out. It’s safe to say that Creighton is for real.