The Creighton Bluejays fell just short of a signature win Tuesday in Lawrence, as the Kansas Jayhawks came away with a 73-72 victory.
The game opened with a bang, as the Bluejays went up 14-8 in the first five minutes behind a pair of Mitch Ballock threes, and a pair of Christian Bishop buckets, forcing Kansas coach Bill Self to call a quick timeout and try to get his team back on track.
To Self’s credit, the early timeout worked, as Kansas went on a run of their own, anchored by David McCormack and Jalen Wilson, both of whom would play huge roles in the Jayhawks victory.
By the time the half rolled around, Kansas held a 39-35 lead, with McCormack and Wilson accounting for 25 of the 39 points. Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner did all he could against McCormack, but just looked so overmatched in the half. The freshman will undoubtedly take it as a learning experience.
The second half was where Marcus Zegarowski began to shine. The Preseason Big East Player of the Year hit back-to-back threes to get Creighton back on top, doubling his first half output in just two shots.
Midway through the half, Christian Braun hit a pair of threes sandwiched between two Mitch Lightfoot free throws. It took the game from a 50-50 tie to a 58-50 Kansas lead with just over ten minutes to play. We’ve seen countless teams in this very situation at Phog Allen Fieldhouse over the years, and more often than not, the team folds and Kansas runs away with the game. That didn’t happen for Creighton, though, as Bishop, Zegarowski, and Denzel Mahoney whittled the lead down and tied the game at 59 after just three minutes.
The pendulum swung back to the Jayhawks, as a Marcus Garrett layup put them up by five with 90 seconds to play. Creighton struck back, again. Mahoney hit a three and then forced a turnover and hit a layup to singlehandledly tie the game with just a minute to play.
Kansas responded with some great ball movement to get Jalen Wilson a great look from outside. He connected for what appeared to be a dagger.
No. 5 Kansas holds off No. 8 Creighton, 73-72— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 8, 2020
Freshman Jalen Wilson hit a dagger to ice the game ❄️
Wilson: 23 PTS, 8-12 FG, 10 REB pic.twitter.com/nUnC56RdZi
Yet again, Creighton responded. After a missed three-point attempt, the Bluejays fouled Braun, who missed the front end of the one-and-one. The ball was pushed up to Zegarowski, who drew contact shooting the three. With just a second to play, the junior guard had a chance to send the game to overtime. Zegarowski, a career 74% free throw shooter, stepped to the line and sank the first shot. Then, he sank the second shot. Then, the third shot was just a bit too long, bouncing off the back of the rim and deflecting off a Creighton hand out of bounds as time expired, giving Kansas the 73-72 win.
In a one-point loss, it can be easy to go back and look at single plays that could have gone differently and changed the result. While I’m not going to do that, specifically, it’s important to note Creighton finished 9-18 (50%) from the free throw line in the game. Additionally, the Bluejays allowed Kansas to haul in 13 offensive rebounds, which the Jayhawks turned into an additional 11 points.
There’s no such thing as a moral victory, but Creighton being able to hang with a top five team in a true road game like this is definitely a positive sign going forward for the Bluejays. They will return to action Friday, hosting Nebraska.