North Florida deployed a zone and then adjusted it, melding it from a 2-3 to a 1-3-1 to a matchup, in the first ten minutes of this ballgame. Needless to say, it gave Creighton fits. Creighton’s offense becomes an unwatchable, frustrating mess when they’re up against a zone, passing up good shots for contested shots, seemingly overthinking the simplicity of it, and eventually allowed North Florida’s bombers to grow their lead to 9 at 17-8 at the 11 minute mark.
Creighton would get the ballgame to within one at 32-31, but North Florida led for almost the entire half.
That’s the diabolical nature of North Florida - they force you to make momentum killing mistakes and then chuck up threes on the other end, hoping that they can make enough to discourage their opponent. Creighton fell for it, and by the end of the first half, the Ospreys led 36-31.
The other problem was that Creighton couldn’t get any rebounds. It was mostly for a lack of trying, though, since North Florida is a team full of small boys that just have that hustle and grit. On multiple offensive rebounds, the Ospreys simply got better position and bullied the Jays out of the way.
At the half, UNF led Creighton 23-15 on the glass. They also scored an uncharacteristic 14 points in the paint while the Jays melted on offense.
Creighton came out hot in the second half, eventually going on a 30-second 6-0 run sparked by an and-one by Damien Jefferson and answered by a three by Ty-Shon Alexander. With a 42-41 lead and North Florida looking lost offensively, Creighton capitalized with a dunk by Kelvin Jones and another three by Ty-Shon, extending their lead to 47-41 in the blink of an eye.
It was good for a 14-3 run in just over two minutes, a vintage Creighton-style offensive onslaught that was bookended with a UNF timeout.
It certainly helped that North Florida went completely cold on offense, but credit to Creighton’s defense for mashing the gas pedal and keeping the Ospreys off balance. Damien Jefferson added a free throw and a lay-up to build the run to 17-3, yet North Florida hadn’t cashed a bucket in well over four minutes of game action, a deflating and confidence killing run that eventually ended after a trio of free throws from Carter Hendrickson.
Marcus Zegarowski responded immediately with a three of his own and Ty-Shon added another three to grow the lead to 12. Defensively, the Jays were kicking some serious ass. Offensively, they were trotting out a magnificent run that finally featured a string of made buckets.
UNF’s field goal drought lasted nearly 7 game minutes as Creighton continued to flex their lead, yet as bulletproof as the Jays looked, they succumbed to back-to-back-to-back turnovers, which allowed UNF to crawl back into the ballgame and get within shouting distance at the 7 minute mark. Both teams decided to go on parallel scoring droughts, Creighton going over three minutes and UNF going over two before getting a couple freebies to fall at the 6 minute mark.
Christian Bishop ended the Bluejay drought with a lay-in on a Ty-Shon airball. He also cashed in on a beautiful alley-oop from Ty-Shon - which felt an awful lot like back-to-back assists from the junior shooting guard.
Creighton led by 10 with 2:36 left in the game, which was the beginning of the end for North Florida. They fought valiantly, deployed a stellar zone in the first half, but couldn’t body up Creighton’s incredible ability to go on staggering runs.
It’s in these games where we realize the importance of players like Davion Mintz - while not the dynamic scorer that Ty-Shon, Ballock, and Zegarowski are, he’s a steady hand that understands the offensive mantra better than anyone on the team. The fact that Jett Canfield is getting minutes and taking big shots will be more of a footnote than a red flag when Mintz eventually eats up all of his minutes.
Creighton improves to 4-1 after this win, with a game against San Diego State looming on Thanksgiving in Las Vegas.