Creighton welcomed an upset-minded Louisiana Tech team into Omaha and sent them back south with their first loss of the season.
The Bluejays relied on a combination of Zegarowski and Ballock to mount a double digit lead early on in the first half, a double digit lead that got cut to six at the end of the half. Louisiana Tech used Derric Jean and Jacoby Pemberton to stay within striking distance throughout the game.
Creighton had a tough time getting defensive rebounds, allowing LA Tech to clean the glass in the first half and capitalized on every second chance opportunity they got. Fortunately for Creighton, LA Tech missed all four of the free throw opportunities, otherwise this game would’ve had a different complexion going into the half.
It was clear early on that the shooters for the Bluejays were going to light it up and go on their usual runs, and it was just as clear that their even-tempered ability to score a bucket when they needed it most - from Ballock or Zegarowski - was going to stymie any comeback effort the Bulldogs put forth.
That became more evident in the second half as Creighton stretched that 6 point lead into an 11 point lead out of the gates, then proceeded to get into a tit-for-tat affair against the Bulldogs. The only possible way that the Jays would let this game slip is by their own accord, by shooting themselves in the foot instead of shooting the orange orb into the cherry red cylinder.
Well, between some offensive breakdowns, some boneheaded turnovers, and some great defense by LA Tech got the deficit for the Bulldogs down to 5. A scoring drought lasting 2 minutes certainly didn’t help things and if you give a starving dawg the sniff of salty meats they’re going to strike.
After three consecutive missed opportunities for LA Tech to get the ballgame within one score, Creighton managed to counter with misses and turnovers of their own. Eventually, Jean got an offensive board and slapped a layup in to make it 58-55.
4 minute scoring drought for the Jays to this point.
Until, at least, Kelvin Jones managed to smash through a massive dunk on a lob from Mitch Ballock on a feed from Zegarowski. Jones, while landing from his emphatic dunk, twisted his right ankle and limped off to the locker room.
Christian Bishop, the only other viable big man left on the roster, had four fouls.
This is what we in the business call “Oh Fuck Time.” Oh Fuck Time is the time in which your eyes begin to close, tightly, and you begin to think of all the failures you’ve succumbed to in your life. The thoughts of sadness fill your mind, the image of Sam Hauser coming to the forefront of your retinas, the debt you accrued during college becoming the sole ruminating thought destroying your psyche.
Then Mitch Ballock hit a three to push the lead back to six. Except DaQuan Bracey responded with an and-one on a drive to the dish, negating Ballock’s three, and the Jays had to finish the game off with a teeny-tiny lineup consisting of Shereef Mitchell, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitch Ballock, Marcus Zegarowski, and Damien Jefferson.
All is well, though, since LA Tech is similarly vertically challenged. Oh, and Mitch Ballock exists.
Ballocked nailed a three to push the lead back to six at 66-60 with 6 minutes left in the ballgame. Zegarowski added a free throw moments later, but Bracey nailed a three to respond.
It’s in these times where you need your best scorer to step up, so Ty-Shon Alexander drained a three, to keep the tit-for-tat continuing into sub-five minute portion of the game.
This is where you should probably stop reading because you likely already know the outcome. From my perspective it was hard to watch, as was this entire game, but there were moments where I wanted to throw up.
Louisiana Tech managed to get the deficit to two at 69-67. Zegarowski missed a three and LA Tech turned it over. Ballock got the steal, calmed down his ballclub, dished to Zegarowski, who got the ball to Alexander on the left wing. Alexander probed, got his defender to bite hard and fall, then stepped back and splashed a three.
72-67. 2:31 left.
Muhammed managed to sink one free throw, making it 72-68, but Mitch Ballock, as he always does, sank a three ball pushing the lead to 75-68.
This is where the weirdness begins. Pemberton drove the lane and collided with a waiting Kelvin Jones. The refs called a blocking foul initially, with an and-one, fouling out Jones, but then, in a twist of fate, the referees went and reviewed the call.
They reversed it.
It was Pemberton’s fifth foul. He gone.
On the ensuing madness and possession, Ty-Shon Alexander missed a wide open three and the ball clanged hard off the iron, careening toward mid-court. Jones, who injured his ankle earlier, dove for the loose ball, grabbing it with two hands in traffic, and secured the board and the possession for the Jays with 1:33 left.
Muhammed got a put back for LA Tech to make it 75-70, another second chance opportunity that the Bulldogs capitalized on, a common theme all night, but with the frontcourt so thin for the Jays, it wasn’t surprising.
With 49 seconds left, Zegarowski toed the foul line and sank both the freebies to make it 77-70.
Jean drove the lane on the ensuing possession, slicing through Creighton’s offense, and put a contested shot up at the dish. No good.
Jefferson grabbed the board and outletted to Zegarowski who promptly got fouled. As I mentioned before, the only way the Jays could lose this thing in the second half is if they shot themselves in the foot. Well, Zegarowski missed both of his free throws, and when Jean missed a three on the other end and Alexander was sent to the line, he missed one as well, making it 78-70.
Fortunately, LA Tech couldn’t capitalize. They simply couldn’t, and the Jays walked away with a solid win against a team that pressed them athletically.