Creighton and St. John’s combined for 32 turnovers on the night, forcing all who watched this affair to loll their heads in an uneasy attempt to see anything but this torrid affair. Yet, with the right mindset, one could convince themselves that a basketball game wasn’t necessarily taking place and something bigger was in its stead.
Ronnie Harrell Jr., the seldom used 6’7 G/F for the Bluejays, entered the game in the first half as the crowd swelled with applause as he stepped in bounds, warm-up tossed asunder. I’ve began referring to him as ‘Spaceman Slim,’ a nickname created in one part by his teammates and the other part by my imagination, proceeded to make an impact by logging 10 minutes of action with a +8 efficiency rating.
This was no anomaly; McDermott said after the game that he matched up well with St. John’s, yet I have a feeling that McDermott had been looking to the night sky and asking for a miracle when, suddenly, the stars in the sky lit up brighter than he’d seen before. What lay before him in the cosmos was the outline of Spaceman Slim’s face, and fate had McDermott by the heart.
There are many among the Creighton fanbase whose hearts and minds long to see the Spaceman waltz onto the court and make magical things occur.
Tonight was a prime example of why.
Immediately he made an impact, soaring through the atmosphere like a rocket primed with the finest fuel from the far east, grabbing two rebounds, assisting on two scores, and completing an out-of-this-world and-one.
To watch Spaceman Slim play is akin to watching man walk on the moon for the first time. There’s unbelievable beauty to the things that he can do, his innate nature, his wondrous ability to defy all logic that you’ve accumulated over time. He knows it. His teammates know it. Those of us on press row know it.
Why he isn’t utilized more often is troubling yet understandable. Sometimes you cannot let the opponent know you hold a weapon of utter devastation. Sometimes the best kept secrets are the most powerful tool.
Creighton won this game from tip to finish, St. John’s making their patented run in the second half to make the game respectable. It was clear that Khyri Thomas was having himself a special game, grabbing rebounds and dishing assists to prove to professional scouts that perhaps he’s the unicorn they’d been seeking.
It’s interesting to watch Chris Mullin coach his team from the sidelines. On occasion it seems like he’s coaching on the fly without a lot of preparation, barking out orders as he sees the game instead of coming in with a gameplan. Part of me believes this is foolish but my heart sank once I realized that, if his direction rang true, an assembly of stellar ballplayers like Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds could destroy opponents with his wisdom guiding them.
When Isaiah Zierden first gained possession of the ball, Mullin barked out, “Go and get him.” Immediately, Federico Mussini stuck to him like glue and cut off all oxygen he was able to generate. It was fascinating to watch, but mind you that in this same match up a year ago Chris Mullin was booted out in the first half after blowing a gasket, so this was the first time I was able to observe him in his true role in person.
The St. John’s defense was excellent in the second half. Again, on the fly changes to their game were evident as they seemed a bit laid back on defense in the first half and then obliterated passing lanes in the second, with Mussini and Ponds jumping in front of first-look passes like all-pro cornerbacks on a slant route.
By the way, if you haven’t realized this already, Shamorie Ponds is going to be the biggest nuisance in the BIG EAST in the coming years. My lord is this kid phenomenal.
Marcus Foster was pegged to run point for a good bit of time and it taxed him a great deal. There were moments when he’d take the ball up the court and look absolutely gassed, and for a typical 2-guard, it was obvious that this wasn’t a role he was used to playing.
Martin Krampelj, better known as the Slovenian Assassin, was dynamite in this game. Afterwards, McDermott said that he was positioned perfectly for the incoming St. John’s block squad, compensating under the rim after a Bluejay guard missed lay-up in pressure, and timing his jumps perfectly for 3 tip back slams. It was a lot of fun to see yet another seldom used Bluejay come off the bench and perform a hearty task.
Overall, this was definitely a basketball game and it had both a winner and a loser.