The Creighton Bluejays came back from 16-down in the second half to defeat the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars, 70-65. Creighton was forced into a bad position late, losing Ryan Kalkbrenner within just a few minutes of the first half to foul issues. From there, the Cougars were able to go and take a 12-point lead going into halftime, and extended the lead to 16 early in the second half. Creighton had little offensive rhythm early, and gave up 32 points in the paint in the first half without Kalkbrenner.
Then, as Creighton has done multiple times this year, the Bluejays stormed back. Led by their defense, CU allowed just 23 points in the second half to eke out a win late. Spearheading this defensive performance was Kalkbrenner, who finished the day with five blocks, Ryan Hawkins with five assists, and Rati Andronikashvili with some tenacious defending in the second half. With Kalkbrenner back in the game, the Bluejays allowed just 12 points in the paint over the second half. Couple that with clutch shooting in the second half from Trey Alexander (five points in the final four minutes), Kalkbrenner lay-ins late in the game, as well as free throws from Ryan Nembhard in the final minute, and Creighton was able to get out of tonight with a win.
Creighton improved in some defensive categories. For example, Creighton allowed just a single SIUE three-pointer, limiting the Cougars to 6.7% shooting from distance. SIUE got to the foul line just 12 times, where the Cougars got to the line 126 times in six games before tonight. Though, Creighton did falter in some ways. The points in the paint category was bad, but Creighton was also bested in second chance points, something driven by Creighton allowing a season high 14 opponent offensive rebounds. Creighton also lost in points off turnovers, 15-12.
Creighton was led in scoring by Hawkins with 14, Kalkbrenner with 13, Arthur Kaluma with 12, and Alex O’Connell with 11. Nembhard and Alexander both had nine, and KeyShawn Feazell rounded out the scoring with two points. Nembhard led the way with five assists, followed by O’Connell and Andronikashvili with three. Hawkins had seven rebounds, with Kalkbrenner and Kaluma bringing down six boards themselves. SIU-Edwardsville was led by Ray’Sean Taylor with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Shamar Wright and DeeJuan Pruitt both had 13, and Lamar Wright rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10.
Creighton jumps to 6-1 on the season, while SIUE drops to 2-5. Creighton has a tough stretch ahead, playing a North Dakota State team who returns over 90% of their scoring and minutes from last year, then dates with Iowa State (who is undefeated), BYU in Sioux Falls (who is undefeated), and Arizona State. It will be a tough road for the Jays, who have been playing insufficient basketball of late to defeat most of those teams. The Bluejays will need to ramp up the quality of basketball they are playing if they want to win these games.