On Saturday, December 11th, the Creighton Bluejays will go to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to play the 24th ranked BYU Cougars. Despite an OT loss to Utah Valley, BYU is still a great team this year, tallying wins against San Diego State, Oregon, Utah, and Utah State. The Cougars, unlike the Bluejays, did not have the week off, and had to go and play Missouri State in Springfield before their game against Creighton. Jays fans need to hope that works in their favor.
How to watch Creighton vs. BYU
Time: 12:00pm ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports App
It is important to note that BYU is undermanned. Senior, starting center, Gavin Baxter, is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL that he sustained against Utah Valley. He was an impact player, shooting 64.9% from the field in the 13.7 MPG he played in seven starts for the Cougars, scoring 7.6 PPG. He also was recording 1.1 BPG, good for 16th (as of Dec. 9th’s games finished) in the NCAA for the amount of minutes he was playing. BYU also had Gideon George lose 12 pounds due to an illness that kept him out of two games. George should be good to go against Creighton, while Baxter, obviously, will not be.
The BYU Cougars (8-1), led by Mark Pope, will be affected most by these injuries in their rebounding. BYU had been a daunting rebounding team on the season, and still has been, but their rebounding of late has been questionable. The Cougars have brought down just 58 rebounds in their last two games, good for a 29 RPG average, compared to the top-50 rank of 41.1 RPG on the season thus far. This is, in part, because BYU’s adaptation with their loss of Baxter meant replacing the 6’9” forward with Trevin Knell, a 6’5” guard. George was also a starter and is currently averaging 7 RPG, so the now-starting Seneca Knight, a 6’7” guard, was thrown into a starting role unexpectedly to replace George, the forward.
This starting lineup of Seneca Knight, Trevin Knell, Caleb Lohner, Te’Jon Lucas, and Alex Barcello did still win games against Missouri State and Utah State, so something went right despite losing out on Baxter and waiting for George to come back fully from injury. Knight and Lucas are the key guards for this team (aside from Barcello, who will be discussed shortly), dishing out 6.4 APG as a duo. In fact, everyone in this improvised starting lineup has averaged more than 1.0 APG on the season, signaling a great passing team in the Cougars. Caleb Lohner also helps lead the team in rebounds at 7.0 RPG. He isn’t the defensive, shot-blocking type that Creighton is used to seeing in Ryan Kalkbrenner, but his 7 RPG are a welcome addition to BYU’s frontline that has been depleted.
Barcello is the leader of the team, however, and has been carrying BYU to wins. This isn’t abnormal for Barcello; he is scoring 18.4 PPG on the year on 51.0/42.2/89.1 shooting splits. In addition, Barcello is playing 32.0 MPG, has an assist to turnover ratio of roughly 2.5:1, and gets to the line 6.1 times a game. The dude is an absolute unit, and has been the driving force behind BYU’s excellent start. He leads the team in field goal percentage among active rotation players, second in three point percentage, and because of Te’Jon Lucas’s ability to distribute, Barcello is able to play off the ball as more of a scorer with passing abilities.
In order for Creighton to win...
...Barcello needs to be rendered a non-factor in this game, especially late, which hasn’t been something teams have been able to do. Barcello has posted double-digit points in every game this year, with multiple 20-point games. To even keep Barcello to even a modest 15 points could play a major role in helping Creighton win the game. That starts with players off the bench, like a healthy Shereef Mitchell and Rati Andronikashvili being present and active in the game tomorrow.
Exploiting the rebounding issues for BYU as of late will also be a big factor. Who does this for Creighton? Ryan Hawkins, Ryan Kalkbrenner, Alex O’Connell, and KeyShawn Feazell all need to be a factor on the boards early to establish extra possessions and kill BYU possessions if Creighton were to win this game. This will be easier if Gideon George is still not himself, but neutralizing Caleb Lohner would also be a tremendous help to this effort.