Boise State scored one for the Mountain West Conference on Wednesday night as they defeated No. 11 Creighton, 83-70, in front of a packed house at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
The Broncos (5-1), representing the MWC in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge, dominated in the paint, beyond the arc, at the charity stripe, and on the glass. They hustled more, worked harder, and executed better than the Jays (6-1) from the opening tip.
“They did a great job, had a great plan, and most importantly, they executed the plan. They were very well prepared for what we do,” said Creighton head coach, Greg McDermott. “I thought they outhustled us, and I thought they communicated better than we did. If you watched that game tonight, it was obvious who the better team was, and it wasn’t us.”
Senior guard Grant Gibbs nailed an uncontested three-pointer to give the Jays a 3-0 lead just 36 seconds into the game. Gibbs took the shot almost reluctantly as the Broncos practically dared him to do it. After hitting the triple Gibbs looked over at Boise State head coach, Leon Rice, and smiled as he made his way down the floor. Unfortunately for the nationally-ranked Bluejays that was the last time anyone in Creighton blue would smile the rest of the night as it was their one and only lead of the game.
Boise State entered the game shooting just over 34% from long range and averaged seven makes per game from beyond the arc. The Broncos surpassed both of those numbers in astonishing fashion after the first twenty minutes as they hit 9 of 13 from long range, including a ten minute stretch where they hit seven in a row. “We want our guys to love the rim, and like the three,” Rice said after the game. “In the first half, we were really loving the three.”
The hot shooting allowed Boise State to take a 39-33 lead in the locker room, but coach Rice felt his team could’ve taken better advantage of the opportunities around the rim, “on a couple of those drives it looked like we could have got to the hole. We didn’t want to just keep settling for threes. We wanted to attack and get some stuff going to the basket.”
Enter sophomore guard Derrick Marks. With Rice emphasizing attacking off the dribble, combined with the Bluejays adjustment to better defend the perimeter scoring, Marks went off. The sophomore from Chicago, Illinois scored 28 of Boise State’s 44 points in the second half, including a nearly nine minute stretch midway through the half where he scored 18 consecutive points for the Broncos to help them turn a 52-44 lead with 14:16 remaining into a 70-58 lead with 5:37 left to play. No matter what they tried, the Bluejays simply had no answer for Marks’ onslaught.
“We tried a few different things,” said junior Doug McDermott. “We went zone a couple possessions, but he just kept getting to that left hand. He wasn’t missing and no one was stopping him. We have to do a better job of locking down a guy like that.”
Trailing 73-59 with 4:59 remaining, the Jays went on an 11-2 run to cut the Boise State lead to 75-70 with 2:29 remaining. The run was punctuated by a steal and three-point play by McDermott as the Jays desperately tried to steal a game they had no business winning. The Broncos held Creighton scoreless from that point on, and converted their free throws to close out the win. McDermott led the Jays with 21 points. He now has 1,529 points for his career which moves him into 11th place on the school’s all-time scoring list.
It wasn’t the encore performance that Jays had hoped for coming off the emotional high of beating Wisconsin and Arizona State over Thanksgiving weekend to win the Las Vegas Invitational. McDermott, who won the Most Valuable Player award after averaging 29.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in those wins, felt the Jays may have let that success get in the way of their preparation.
“I think we celebrated those wins a little too much,” he said. “I think that got to us a little, and we kind of went away from how we prepare as a team. We have to do a better job of moving on to the next game, and be able to focus on a scouting report so we can stop guys like Marks.”
While that may seem like an excuse for the loss, it’s more of a realization that this Creighton team has a tough road ahead full of teams looking to knock the Jays off their perch.
Coach McDermott hopes his team realizes it as soon as possible.
“I’m not sure I guys have grasped the fact that we are getting a lot of attention. We are going to get everybody’s best shot. As soon as you relax somebody’s going to punch you in the mouth. That happened to us tonight. Hopefully it’s just a bump in the road, and not a mountain we have to climb to get back to what we need to do. I told the team that we could play well on Saturday and get beat, so we better strap it up, because this a very good basketball team that’s coming here Saturday.”
That very good basketball team is the St. Joseph’s Hawks. St. Joe’s is 4-1 on the season, and have already defeated one Top 25 team when they beat then No. 20 Notre Dame, 79-70 in overtime of the semifinals of the Coaches vs Cancer Classic. Almost exactly one year ago, the Hawks handed the Jays their first loss of the season by a score of 80-71. That game was played at St. Joe’s home arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
They return a very talented group that will look to duplicate last year’s result.
“They are very different team than the one we played today,” said coach McDermott. “They’re very long, very athletic, and they have two great guards in [Carl] Jones and [Langston] Galloway, and of course a great front line.”
Senior Grant Gibbs added to that by saying, “they’re extremely talented – one of the best teams we are going to play all year. We have to take this and there are a ton of things we need to make a significant change on heading into that game if we’re going to try and beat them.”
Despite the poor performance, and the challenge ahead, Creighton’s All-American leader feels confident going forward.
“We have to be ready. We know it’s going to be a packed house and we are going to be ready. We are going to have a couple of good days of practice here, and we are going to be ready for them.”
Tip-off for Creighton vs Saint Joseph’s is set for 2:00 p.m. at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.
Creighton / Boise State
Score: 70 / 83
FG/FGA/FG%: 25-52 (48.1%) / 29-48 (60.4%)
3FG/3FGA/3FG%: 12-27 (44.4%) / 10-19 (52.6%)
FT/FTA/FT%: 8-12 (66.7%) / 15-19 (78.9%)
Rebounding: 19 (Off: 4, Def: 15) / 32 (Off: 5, Def: 27)
Assists: 16 / 15
Turnovers: 11 / 13
Steals: 7 / 8
Blocks: 1 / 1
Scoring Leaders: McDermott (21) / Marks (35)
Rebounding Leaders: McDermott (4) / Hadziomerovic (5)
Assists Leaders: Chatman, Gibbs (5) / Drmic, Elorriaga (4)
Steals Leaders: Chatman, Gibbs (2) / Marks (4)
Blocks Leaders: Artino (1) / Drmic (1)