The Creighton Bluejays had a late chance to defend home court against the Arizona State Sun Devils, but failed to convert in a 58-57 heart-breaking loss. If Creighton did not foul with 9 seconds left in the game and with 2 left on the shot clock, there could have been more time for a play, but with fouls left to give, the young Jays had to foul thrice to extend the game. Jay Heath did miss the front end of the one-and-one foul shot, but Creighton had just around 6 to 7 seconds to make a play from under their basket. Ryan Nembhard was the man with the ball in his hands late, but was smothered trying to make a play at the top of the arch and had to settle for a leaning shot which did not go down.
Arizona State was better known for their defense going into tonight, and it showed; Creighton was held to 5-25 from behind the arc. The 20% shooting mark is the second-worst on the season, only worse than the 1-19 performance against Kennesaw State. No one made more than one three, with players like Ryan Hawkins (who had put up 50 points in his last two games) shooting just 1-8. He was the worst of the shooting performances from deep, but he is not the only Jay to have a bad game from behind the arc, as four players shot at or worse than 25% on the day. Of all the CU players, only two shot 50% or better for the day.
That is a shining part of the game. Ryan Kalkbrenner’s growth continued today, shooting 6-7 from the field, adding 4 from the line to make 16 points with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. He has been integral in Creighton’s success recently, and even in a loss, he helped to lead the charge in the second half with a perfect shooting performance and 10 points in the second stanza of the game. Today, it did not result in a win, but Creighton fans have seen what can happen when he has an off-day, most recently in a loss at home against Iowa State. Kalkbrenner is emerging as a key part of the offensive and defensive gameplan.
But then, you can see that players like Ryan Nembhard (7 points) and Ryan Hawkins (6 points) are also important to the gameplan, and what happens when they have subpar shooting nights. Their combined 4-19 shooting night obviously didn’t doom the Jays, as Creighton was able to stay competitive, but it was inconvenient for the team to have two of their best scorers coming into the night struggling to produce points. Without a doubt, they excelled in other ways: Nembhard added 8 assists, and Hawkins added 10 rebounds. These stats, however, do not cover up the loss the team suffered.
Arizona State (who advances to 5-6) was led by D.J. Horne with 12, Marreon Jackson with 10, and Jay Heath with 10. Creighton (who drops to 8-3) was led by Ryan Kalkbrenner with 16, Alex O’Connell with 11, and Arthur Kaluma with 9. Creighton will next play #9 Villanova in Omaha for the start of Big East play. The Wildcats (7-3) are coming off a 21-point loss to Baylor, and will be hungry to reestablish themselves with a win in Omaha. Creighton needs to come out hungry on the defensive and offensive ends of the floor on Friday to win that game.