Boise State 83, Creighton 70
Yes, I will admit it I was one of those people. I will freely admit I wasn’t happy Creighton was playing Boise State.
Last December after Creighton had earned their first win in three tries in the Missouri Valley Conference / Mountain West Conference challenge, I was disappointed with who the Jays drew for this season, Boise State. The thrilling comeback against San Diego State was one of best games I watched last season and a perfect example as to why these games and this series was put together in the first place. After failing at New Mexico and falling short against BYU the previous two years, the win against the Aztecs kicked off what turned out to be one of the most exciting seasons in recent history by the Bluejays.
So when the pairings were coming out for this season, the options available were slim since there was so much change in the conference, UNLV and Colorado State were getting home games of their own and Creighton already played San Diego State and New Mexico in the series. With Boise State just joining the conference last season and being known more for football than basketball, it wasn’t a very attractive matchup. While many other Creighton fans, including myself, moaned and groaned, it is very possible that the Broncos circled this day on their calendar. They took advantage of a great opportunity Wednesday night.
Creighton fans were still recovering from their Thanksgiving coma in Las Vegas and the basketball team was riding high after taking out Wisconsin and Arizona State. They ran into the buzzsaw of Boise State waiting for the Bluejays to return. Amazing shooting and hard knocks defense set the tone in the first half of Wednesday’s game and the Bluejays were never able to recover.
Initially, it looked like it was going to be a great night for the Jays when Boise State missed their first shot. It looked even better when Grant Gibbs was then left wide open on the first possession of the game and nailed a three pointer to get the Bluejays on the board. That turned out to be the Bluejays only lead of the evening.
After the Gibbs triple, the Broncos came out shooting from behind the arc and could not miss. Six of the next nine shots were made three pointers by Boise State, including a stretch of four of five makes were threes. Shot after shot went down and the Bluejays could not get into their normal flow by getting points in transition. Boise State shot almost 64% from the field in the first half along with shooting an even more impressive 9-of-13 from three at just over 69%.
Then that sag off defense that temped Gibbs on the first possession of the game neutralized the paint with Doug McDermott and Gregory Echenique. After some frustration getting the ball inside and general running of the offense, the Bluejays troubles on offense contributed to troubles on defense, and the Broncos took advantage of it. However, while it felt like the Bluejays were down 20 at halftime, a quick glance at the scoreboard only showed a six point deficit. It was definitely a manageable margin and things could change in the second half.
Indeed things on the defensive side of things changed in the second half limiting Boise State to 1-of-6 from three, but then it turned into the Derrick Marks show. The Bronco guard scored 28 of his game high 35 points in the second half and seemingly had the ball every possession as he continued to score at will. There was an eight minute stretch in the second half where Marks scored 18 straight points. It was only until there were five minutes left in the game that the Bluejays started to slow him down.
McDermott had to work really hard all evening to get his 21 points along with a stretch of scoring that got the Boise State lead down to five, the closest in the second half. Gibbs did his best to try and step up by scoring 15 points of his own. But outside of that, Ethan Wragge, Avery Dingman, Jahenns Manigat, and Josh Jones were limited to a combined 15 points for the game, not something that is typical from the Creighton offense.
The talk of the Creighton offseason was the due diligence in working on their defense. While it has looked relatively improved this season, especially with the tough play in Vegas, Boise State took them out of their game and there were shades of the 2011-12 defense in Wednesday’s game.
A big combination of things went wrong. The Bluejays were outrebounded 32-19. Second chance points were limited to one basket. They only attempted 12 free throws (while Boise State made 15), as well as missing several front end 1-and-1 opportunities. They let one player on the opposition have their way on offense.
Some can complain about the referees–Mark Whitehead, Bob Staffen and Scott Thornley– like I did all night. They were absolutely atrocious. However, what it comes down to was who wanted this game more. Whether they were motivated by the dismissal of Creighton fans not excited about this game or the chance to knock off the #11 team in the nation, Boise State wanted it more Wednesday night.
Looming for the Bluejays is the long anticipated game against St. Joseph’s on Saturday afternoon, which coach Greg McDermott said on the postgame that the Hawks would be the toughest team they will play in the non-conference. Maybe getting the loss early against Boise State is something that was needed. There is a long way to go and Creighton will rebound and learn from this loss.
At the same time the fans need to make sure to learn from this loss as well. On any given night, any team can beat another team. It is up to the fans to get up for every game too, no matter who the opponent is. Maybe in the future I won’t be so quick to judge future opponents. Boise State won’t finish eighth in the nine team Mountain West Conference. I learned that tonight. I’ll admit it.