He was just a statline, an occasional glance at a midday Big 12 game that was playing in the background, a skinny white guy that could shoot.
Then he became exactly what the crowd in Omaha needed: the heel.
Despite Reaves’s best efforts to pin himself as enemy that Bluejay fans didn’t know they needed, he instead became the focal point in a tremendous game of basketball.
In the second half, with the Jays beginning their surge ahead, Reaves sprinted to the right side of the three point line and haphazardly launched a three in front of Ty-Shon Alexander. Alexander, with his hands dropping to his sides to avoid contact, was whistled for the foul. Reaves, on his follow through and lean into Alexander, swatted the star Creighton guard in the face, and as Alexander began an incredulous word journey with the referee in deference to the foul called on him, Reaves said some words that I’ll definitely transcribe to you now: “Shut the fuck up.”
Reaves was issued a technical, proceeded to drain three free throws, then watched as Alexander dropped two freebies in as the Jays kept possession.
It was a turning point of sorts. There were a lot of those tonight.
To be brief: Oklahoma didn’t know how to properly guard Creighton. In the first half, during a transition run, Mitch Ballock was able to catch the ball at the three point line and had enough time to call his mother, bake a ham, and cut up some club sandwiches for he and his teammates to enjoy, then proceeded to drain a three. It was a telling sign that Lon Kruger’s squad came in expecting popcorn and soda and then got a whole trayload of club sandwiches and white wine dumped on them. It wasn’t until midway through the first half that they adjusted, keyed in, and began their slow crawl back into the game.
On Denzel Mahoney’s inaugural night, here on December 17th, 2019, he didn’t disappoint. He made dazzling plays offensively, outletting to Ballock for a three on one end, and picking pockets on the other. It was hustle, pure and simple. The intangible grit. Whatever you want to call it, he brought it. On multiple occasions he managed to paw at, what was presumed to be, easy defensive rebounds for the Sooners, breaking up their offensive flow, and managing to shake up momentum when it was desperately needed.
Mahoney’s sweet touch was in full view for the first time in front of a paying audience, a jumper that’s smooth as silk, an arcing masterpiece that flutters through the air. It seems to carry beauty with it unlike his teammates that hurtle rockets at the cherry red rim that just seem to dive in when gravity begins to insert itself into the scenario.
What a game to begin a career in Omaha.
Damien Jefferson opened the game with a three pointer. I’m not going to peruse the record books but I feel safe saying that Creighton is now 2-0 in games that begin with a Jefferson three pointer in this 2019-20 campaign. As if feeding off of Mahoney’s presence, Jefferson skied for rebounds and made some unbelievable plays - more on that later.
For the most part, Creighton would run, then let Oklahoma catch up. It waned and waxed all game, a slow burner with a lot of fireworks.
Yet, in all the fanfare, it was the Three Amigos in Mitch Ballock, Ty-Shon Alexander, and Marcus Zegarowski that ran roughshod over the Sooners.
Zegarowski didn’t have a stellar first half - scoring just 5 points on 1-2 shooting with three freebies - but his second half was something out of a highlight reel. In transition, Jefferson managed to get in front of the defense by a few steps, and Zegarowski saw him initially, then adjusted in just two steps, and dropped a dime to Jefferson in stride for an easy two. Simply beauty incarnate:
It was a lot of that. I mean, a lot. Zegarowski owned the second half of this game, taking over when the Jays were in a rut, and pushing the lead just a little bit further out where Oklahoma couldn’t quite touch it anymore. Then he pulled a dagger with just under five minutes left in the game:
In all, Zegarowski took his five points in the first half and tripled it; finishing with 20 points and 7 assists. He was absolutely prolific.
Ballock hit in-rhythm threes like it was the business he was born to be in. He finished a transition layup going his natural left, beating Oklahoma’s swatting bigs. He was everywhere, talking, chatting, doing everything you simply expect Ballock to do. It was a marvelous performance, but it was this leaner that sent people wild:
Ty-Shon was incredible to watch. He was everywhere. He grabbed rebounds - 11 total to lead the team. He nailed 12 free throws, hit three big threes, and then proceeded to do this to instantly ice any chance that Oklahoma had at getting back in the game after they pulled within 9:
Mitchell Shereef’s duty in the second half was to simply bottle Reaves. Brady Manek, Jamal Bienemy, and De’Vion Harmon had been neutralized and sent to the ether, while Reaves had the ability to get going at any moment. So Mitchell did what he does: stop him. He held Reaves to 2-10 shooting, including 1-6 from beyond the arc, in the second half. He was on him like glue. The one thing Reaves had going for him was his ability to induce contact on three point attempts, getting 13 of his 23 points from the free throw line. Yet Mitchell’s constant badgering was disruptive and kept him out of his shooting stroke.
Overall, this was a monstrous game for the Jays, and proof that with a small lineup they can do big things. Whenever Oklahoma began to crawl back in, the Jays would get a much needed bucket. The officiating was nauseating at times, yet that’s pretty much par for the course in college basketball.
Creighton’s 9-2 on the year. They get Arizona State on Saturday in Tempe.