The first four games of the CBI have been nothing short of an offensive explosion for Creighton. They’ve scored 85, 82, 102 and 84 points in the four games, after scoring 80+ just four times total in the regular season. Part of the reason for that is that they’ve shown unselfishness in finding the open shooter, instead of taking an ill-advised shot — of the 120 baskets they’ve made in CBI play, 83 of them have been the result of an assist. In other words, they’ve had an assist on 69% of their shots. By comparison, during the regular season, they had 541 assists on 891 made baskets, meaning 60.7% of their buckets were assisted.
Those four games all came at home, though, in front of four of the most raucous crowds of the season. But tonight, they have to go on the road, where they were 3-9 this year and where they haven’t won a game outside of MVC play since beating St. Joseph’s in December of 2008 (!). Yes, its been that long, and yes, Booker Woodfox was on that team.
As if their road woes weren’t enough of an obstacle tonight, Dana Altman, the master tactician, has now seen the Jays first-hand, watched what they did schematically to his Ducks, and had two days to prepare ways to stop them. His full-court press bothered Creighton during those (thankfully) fleeting moments when Antoine Young was on the bench, and forced them into 12 turnovers — but that’s not an obscenely high number. They averaged 11.8 turnovers a game for the season, and in the first three CBI games, had 8, 9 and 13 turnovers. The problem came when others were running the offense in Young’s absence, particularly in breaking the press, so it will be key for the Jays to keep Young on the court as much as possible. You know Altman and staff recognized that deficiency and will aim to exploit it.
If the Jays can keep Young in the game, you have to like their chances because their big men completely dominated Oregon in Game One. We knew the Ducks were undersized — they start 6’8″ Tyrone Nared with the 6’6″ Joevan Catron and E.J. Singler up front — but Creighton, particularly Gregory Echenique, demolished them. In fact, 45 of their 84 points came from Creighton’s primary big men (Echenique, Doug McDermott and Kenny Lawson).
Looking purely at the basic stats, you might question my assessment there — after all, Catron had 15 points and 9 rebounds in 28 minutes, the same exact line in those three categories as Echenique. But Echenique also had four blocks, and went 6-7 from the floor with no turnovers…while Catron needed 17 attempts to make his six baskets, attempted three ill-advised shots from behind the arc with no success, and turned it over four times. Nared was a non-factor due to foul trouble, logging just 13 minutes, but he was pretty ineffective even in the minutes he did play with four points, two rebounds, and a turnover while struggling defensively against the Jays larger post players.
We’ve seen the Jays struggle on the road when jump shots don’t fall early, and we’ve also seen them struggle when three-pointers stop falling (see: at Missouri State), and the cause of both scenarios is the same: they fell in love with the outside shot and neglected to get the ball inside. They absolutely, positively have to get the ball to Echenique, McDermott and Lawson in the paint tonight. Have to. It would be nice to think they can have another crazy-go-nuts night from behind the arc, but to count on it, or to rely on doing so to win, is foolish.
With that said, what I wrote before Game One is still true: the series may well come down not to big men or to coaching but to the battle of E.J. Singler vs Doug McDermott. Singler had an nice game with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists, but McDermott, as he has all year long against opponents, was just a little better. Doug had 21 points, made two clutch three-pointers, and had perhaps the play of the game with his blocked shot in the final minute. The victim of that blocked shot? E.J. Singler.
After watching Altman for 16 years, I’m wondering if his gameplan won’t be to try and get Young in early foul trouble, and hope that his pressure defense can create enough turnovers in Young’s absence to make up for their lack of size inside. That seems to me like Oregon’s best shot to send the series to a deciding third game on Friday night. What do you guys think?
About the Ducks: Joevan Catron opened the tournament with three consecutive double-doubles, and narrowly missed out on another in Monday’s loss to the Bluejays (15 pts, 9 rebs) … Tonight matches the latest in the year Oregon has ever played a basketball game (the only other time they played this late in the year was on March 30, 2004, in the NIT Semifinals vs. Michigan at Madison Square Garden) … The Ducks had the best turnover margin in the Pac-10 (+2.9), and were +3 on Monday night after turning it over just nine times while forcing 12 Bluejay turnovers … Oregon has now committed fewer turnovers than its opponent 27 times this season (13 out of 18 Pac-10 outings) … Oregon is 4-17 this season when they shoot a worse percentage than their opponent, a trend that continued in Game One when they shot 45.3% to Creighton’ss 54.9% … They’re also now 6-14 when outrebounded, as they were on Monday night 34-30.
One Big Paragraph with Lots O’Dots™: The Jays four postseason wins this season are the most in school history for one year … Creighton is a combined 21-30 in the postseason all-time … Creighton hopes to become the third straight team to win the CBI title on an opponent’s court. In the first three years of the CBI championship series, the team that hosted game one has won all three championships, and the team to win game one has won all three championships … Creighton has won eight postseason games in the last four years, including two in the NIT, two in the CIT and four in the CBI. On a national basis, Creighton’s eight postseason wins since 2008 rank tied for 10th nationally. Among teams without an NCAA victory in that group, Creighton’s eight wins is tied for the most with Oregon State’s eight … The only recognized postseason title in Creighton Athletics history was won in 2004, when the women’s basketball team won the WNIT.
The Series / The Last Time They Played: Creighton and Oregon have now split two all-time games, with Oregon winning the first-ever meeting 75-64 on Dec. 26, 1974 in Portland, Ore. The Ducks were ranked 19th at the time, and the contest was played as part of the Far West Classic.
We all remember the last time they played, and it was spectacular.
Gratuitous Linkage: Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is in Eugene covering the game tonight for us, and will run a live-blog/chat from press row. I think other than Steve Pivovar of the Omaha World-Herald, Patrick is the only Creighton media member to be covering it in person. Follow along with his live blog starting at 8:45 tonight, or check out his trip diary which he’ll be updated all day today.
Gratuitous Linkage, Part II: Aaron over at CreightonCrazy looks to have resuscitated his blog, and has had a couple of nice posts during this CBI run. Go check out his site. Any site with a tagline that reads “Home of the Rodney Buford Fan Club” is alright by me.
Out of Context Simpsons quote: “We started out like Romeo and Juliet, but it ended up in tragedy.” -Milhouse
This Date in Creighton Hoops History: Tonight marks the deepest into March that Creighton has ever played. Before Wednesday, the latest game ever played in any Bluejay season was March 29, 1950, when the Jays played St. Francis (N.Y.) in the National Catholic Intercollegiate Tournament in Albany, N.Y.
Completely Random, Totally Rad Music Video of the Day: I played Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” before the first game of the CBI because, well, I had that record spinning on the turntable in my office at the time, so it seemed like a good idea. Then Creighton won, and I decided to keep playing Billy Idol songs as long as that kept happening. Let’s hope they win tonight, because after this, we’re down to “Sweet Sixteen” and a bunch of album tracks only the fans are familiar with. Little-remembered fact about this song: it was originally on the soundtrack to “The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine”, which, of course, was the (thankfully) one and only Andrew Dice Clay movie. There’s a version of the video that includes clips from the movie, but because the Diceman had been banned from MTV, none of the clips feature him. This is the 1990 MTV Video of the Year version, which has lots of, um, solid acting? Solid acting. Yeah, that’s it.
The Bottom Line: I think tonight’s game is a lot tighter, and a lot lower scoring. Creighton’s huge post advantage wins out in the end, and the Jays bring home the trophy.
Creighton 71, Oregon 68