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Creighton loses Nembhard, wins at St. John’s, 81-78

Creighton escapes Queens with a victory, but loses Nembhard for the season

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, February 23rd, the Creighton Bluejays outlasted the St. John’s Red Storm, 81-78. This was a see-saw of a game in the first half, with Creighton up 10 at 13:05 left in the first half, and St. John’s up 9 with just about a minute left in the first half. The second half was quickly trimmed to a lead of just a few possessions for either side, with 7 total lead changes, and ended in a 3-point advantage for the Jays after Ryan Kalkbrenner defense forced a St. John’s miss and his ensuing foul shots extended the lead to 3. Aaron Wheeler’s three-point shot would not fall to extend the game for the Red Storm.

For the Bluejays, the win did come at a cost; Creighton lost their starting PG Ryan Nembhard with an apparent wrist injury. According to a late-night press release, Nembhard is out for the season with this said right wrist injury, and will be undergoing surgery “in the coming days”. It is a tremendous loss for a young team, as Nembhard was averaging 11.5 PPG and 4.3 APG in 35.1 MPG as a freshman, competing with the likes of Georgetown’s Aminu Mohammed for Big East Freshman of the Year. His loss will be missed for the Jays, and my prayers go out to him for a speedy recovery.

For the Johnnies, this is their fourth game just this month of a 6-point loss or less, with a game left to be played at DePaul. Multiple players showed their potential, but multiple necessary players did not show out as much as needed. On one hand, O’mar Stanley, who averaged just 2.9 PPG, had 14 on 7-8 shooting. Montez Mathis and Stef Smith both added 15 and 13, respectively. On the other hand, Aaron Wheeler, a double-digit scorer, had 3 on 1-10 shooting. Julian Champagnie, who averaged nearly 20 PPG, had 8 points on 3-16 shooting. Players had a chance to make plays, but Creighton’s defense was a little too much for those who were at the top of the scouting report.

Creighton was led by Ryan Hawkins with 25, Ryan Kalkbrenner with 19, Trey Alexander with 16, and Arthur Kaluma (his first game in a while) with 12. St. John’s was led by 15 from Montez Mathis, 14 from O’Mar Stanley, and 13 from Posh Alexander and Stef Smith. Creighton, as a team, held a +4 advantage on the glass (42-38), shot over 10% better from the field, but St. John’s did force 17 turnovers off Creighton.

Creighton will jump to 19-8 (11-5) with this win, facing Providence next game in Providence on the 26th of February for Providence’s chances to win the Big East Title. St. John’s will drop to 15-12 (7-9) with this loss, facing DePaul in Chicago on the 27th of February.