Creighton completed a season sweep of the Marquette Golden Eagles on Sunday. The Bluejays’ 83-82 victory at home means that they, winners of five in a row now, have moved into a tie for third place in the Big East Conference. Marquette, 2-4 now in their last six, descended to fifth after the loss.
The pace was fast and the offenses were flowing in the first half. Creighton, who came into this game last in the Big East in 3PT FG% (31%) shot 6-13 from 3 in the first half. Marquette was able to keep up offensively due to the efforts of freshman guard Kam Jones. Jones came off the bench and exploded, finishing the half with 12 points. The hot shooting teams went into halftime tied at 46.
The teams battled through a back-and-forth game throughout the second half. Creighton’s winning odds seemed dire after Alex O’Connell injured himself missing a three-pointer with the Blue Jay’s down five with 4:49 left to go. Ryan Hawkins scored seven points the rest of the way to lead Creighton to victory. Marquette blew their chances to win, with Justin Lewis turning the ball over while up one with 2:06 to go. He then missed a wide-open layup down one with 1:38 left.
Creighton won the game but at what cost? Playing without freshman forward Arthur Kaluma, the Bluejays were down to only six players playing significant minutes. Creighton will need O’Connell, their second-leading scorer at 12.3 PPG, to come back to make deep runs in the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
Creighton’s big three Ryans stepped up to get the win. Ryan Kalkbrenner continued his domination over Marquette this season. After scoring 20 points (8-12 from the field) and gathering 12 rebounds in their win on January 1, he went off for 21 points (8-9) and seven rebounds in this game. Former D-II star Ryan Hawkins came into this game averaging 21 points in his last four games. He finished the game with 17 points and nine rebounds. Hawkins has clearly established himself as one of the best players in the conference. Ryan Nembhard, who entered this matchup shooting 29.9% from 3, went 4-6 from 3. If the freshman guard can stay hot from 3, no Big East team will want to face Creighton in NYC.
Will Marquette fans see a silver lining in this game? Creighton, the Big East’s worst three-point shooting team, caught fire. The Golden Eagles were called for 19 fouls compared to Creighton’s eight. Lewis had an off game, shooting 5-13 and going 0-3 from 3 while commiting five turnovers. All this and they only lost by one. Or will Marquette fans be worried about where this team is heading this late in the season?
Two games ago, they played another terrible 3-point shooting team in Butler and let them go 13-28 (46.4%). During their 8-1 stretch, they gave up 65 PPG. In the 3 losses in their recent 1-3 stretch (win over Georgetown), the Golden Eagle defense is giving up 82.7 PPG. Darryl Morsell stepped up on offense, finishing with 23 points, and Jones continued his elite offensive play (18 points), but to get back to playing their best basketball, Marquette will need to figure out what is wrong with their defense.
Tyler Kolek, the Big East’s assist leader, only played 15 minutes. After facing early foul trouble, he rode the bench for most of the rest of the game. Kolek was not on the floor the last five minutes when the team needed some offensive stability. Before Jones’ last-second 3, the Marquette offense was 0-5 with four turnovers. Kolek was not in the game when his team needed his presence.
Creighton @ St. John’s on Wednesday 2/23
Marquette vs Butler on Saturday 2/26