In the second game of the opening round of the Paradise Jam, the Creighton Bluejays managed to lead from tip to buzzer, defeating the Brown Bears, 78-57. It isn’t a statement win in the way a win against Villanova would be, but this young Jays team hadn’t defeated a team by more than 13 points before this game. Today, Creighton managed to defeat a disciplined Bears team by 21, by far their largest margin of victory all season, and by far the largest loss for Brown all season.
Creighton got this win the way they had in most of their other wins: defense. Brown was committing around 10.8 turnovers as a team per game, including just five against North Carolina in the Dean Dome. Brown had also been particularly good at preventing opponent steals, with Brown’s opponents averaging 4 steals per game as a team. The Bluejays flipped the script, forcing 17 Brown turnovers and gathering 8 steals en route to a dominant win in the Virgin Islands.
Creighton really did what they needed to. Defensively, they were able to force turnovers and steals as well as rebound the ball at a high rate to prevent extra shot attempts for Brown. The Bears did get 60 shots up, but that was about 9 below average for the season, and they only managed to shoot 36.7% as a team. Creighton used their size to their advantage, utilizing Ryan Kalkbrenner (19 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) as an offensive weapon, with the seven-footer setting a career high in points scored. Creighton even got their players some rest, with only three players logging 30 minutes or more (Ryan Nembhard, Alex O’Connell, and Arthur Kaluma). Keeping the team fresh will be important with two more games in the next three days.
There are areas that could be improved if you are Greg McDermott. Turnovers continue to be an issue, with 17 Creighton turnovers today. Considering that a freshman point-guard is starting, this is expected, but the Bluejays cannot allow some of the tougher teams on the upcoming schedule to get 17 more attempts at scoring. Creighton also did not make a three in the second half, and while that can be overshadowed over by the score, shooting continues to be streaky for most of the Bluejays.
Creighton will advance to 4-0 on the season, with Brown dropping to 3-2. Creighton’s next game will be a challenging one; Colorado State (4-0) has beaten every team on their schedule by 20+ excluding their win today against Bradley, which was a 6-point affair.