The non-conference slate ends tonight, as does a stretch of three games in five days, when the Samford Bulldogs come to Omaha. Picked to finish fourth in the North Division of the SoCon, they’ve surprised so far with an 8-4 record, including 1-1 in conference games. They run the Princeton offense — the third team the Jays have faced this season that employs it — and thus, as you’d expect, derive the majority of their points off of backdoor cuts and three-point shots.
What you wouldn’t expect is that they attempt — and make — more three pointers than almost anyone in the country. A year ago, 41.4% of their points came off of three-pointers, which was the most in Division 1. This year, 48.2% of their points have come from behind the arc, which again is the highest percentage in Division 1. They’ve attempted more shots from three-point range (316) than all but three teams nationally, but they’ve also made the second-most in the country, with 126. That’s a 39.9% clip from long range.
They make an average of 10.5 threes per game, and check out some of these three-point stat lines:
- at Auburn: 18-33
- vs Campbell: 14-30
- vs Texas-Arlington: 14-34
- vs Texas-San Antonio: 18-39
Those are three-point makes and attempts, not field goals. Crazy, right? Their head coach, Jimmy Tillette, almost exclusively recruits players who can shoot the deep ball, and every man on the court has the green light at all times. The downside is that they don’t have much of a post game, so they live and die by their success behind the perimeter; they’ve been outrebounded in each of their last ten games, and have a -5 average on the glass per game.
Given all this craziness from three-point range, you’d expect them to average at least 80 points a game, but they average just 65.4, which I suppose is a side effect of having zero post presence. They started Drew Windler, a 6’9″, 190 pound freshman at center earlier this week against UTSA — Kenny Lawson would likely dominate a skinny player with Windler’s inexperience (as he did in the St. Joseph’s game), so what will Gregory Echenique do with him?
Based on this, the Jays should be able to get pretty much whatever they want, offensively, on the interior, and they ought to outrebound the Bulldogs pretty handily. The wildcard is perimeter defense. Antoine Young will likely be asked to slow down senior guard Josh Davis, who is the Bulldogs leading scorer and most dynamic player. As the Birmingham News’ Ruben Grant told WBR’s Patrick Marshall, “Davis can fill it up from beyond the arc when he’s on — he made 8-of-10 treys and scored a career-high 30 points against Auburn.”
If you figure Young will be able to shut down Davis, as he has with the opponent’s leading scorer in eight of the last ten games this year — then it comes down to Kaleb Korver, Daryl Ashford and whoever else is guarding the perimeter to make sure every look is contested. Samford’s only real chance of winning is to get hot and make 18 threes like they did against Auburn. It would behoove the Jays to not allow that to happen.
One last kind of cool note: Omaha native, and Creighton Prep grad, Andy King makes his homecoming tonight. The senior forward for Samford is a solid player off the bench for the Bulldogs. Grant offered this scouting report in his conversation with Patrick Marshall: “King is the team’s most experienced post player, although he comes off the bench. He’s more of a finesse player (what else?) who is a 3-point threat and solid passer, leading the team in assists. He’s not a great rebounder, but at times can be an effective defender.” No doubt this game was lined up so his friends and family could get a chance to watch him in person, and as the World-Herald’s Steve Pivovar writes today, they’ll be there cheering, for once, against the Jays.
Meet The Bulldogs: Samford heads into tonight’s contest riding a wave of positive momentum after its thrilling come-from-behind 74-73 victory at UTSA on Monday. In their third straight win, the Bulldogs’ Josh Davis connected on a last-second heave to tie the score at 73-73 with 4.5 seconds left to play. Following a UTSA turnover, Samford’s Andy King drew a foul near the basket and knocked down the second of two free throws to secure the one-point victory … The Bulldogs, who are in the midst of their third season as a member of the Southern Conference, returned three starters and an additional nine letterwinners from last year’s squad … Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette became the first coach in school history to reach the 200-win plateau on Dec. 22 as the Bulldogs defeated Eastern Michigan on the road 58-56 … In his 14th season as the head coach at Samford, Tillette is the school’s all-time winningest coach and piloted the Bulldogs to NCAA Tournament appearances in both 1999 and 2000 … Since head coach Jimmy Tillette incorporated the Princeton offense at Samford in 1997, the Bulldogs have reeled off a 82-56 record in games played against teams that have less than three days to prepare … Samford is currently the sixth-ranked team in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game. So far this season, the Bulldogs are connecting on an average of 10.5 3-point baskets per outing and are shooting 39.9% from beyond the arc, which is good enough for a No. 50 national ranking … Samford is also ranked No. 41 in the nation in fewest personal fouls per game. The Bulldogs are only committing an average of 16.6 fouls per contest and have only allowed opponents to shoot a total of 216 free throws this season.
One Big Paragraph with Lots O’Dots™: Tonight’s game has a later tip time due to the Creighton women playing Kansas at 5:30; Creighton has not played a true home doubleheader with both men’s and women’s basketball (same site, back-to-back) since the 2002-03 season, when there were four doubleheaders on the schedule, meaning this is the first time they’ve done it at Qwest Center Omaha … The last of those doubleheaders was on January 26, 2003, when Creighton’s men beat TCU 89-79 and the Bluejay women followed that by defeating Drake, 63-51 at the Omaha Civic Auditorium … Creighton has made at least one three-pointer in 546 straight games since a 59-53 loss at Illinois State on Feb. 20, 1993, which is the longest active streak in the MVC, while Samford has made at least one three-pointer in 576 consecutive games dating to Jan. 19, 1991 … Senior center Kenny Lawson Jr. will make his 100th career start on Wednesday vs. Samford, the first Bluejay to reach that mark since Dane Watts on Jan. 9, 2008 vs. Evansville … Lawson has started 84 straight games since stepping aside on Senior Night in 2008, a 111-110 double-overtime win over Bradley … Fun side note: Also in the building that night were assistant coach Steve Merfeld (then with Bradley as an assistant) and Gregory Echenique, who made an unofficial visit to Creighton that evening … Echenique attempted 14 free throws on Monday night, the most in the MVC by any player this year, and most by a Bluejay in any game since Dane Watts attempted 15 free throws on Dec. 9, 2007 … Echenique scored 12 points in his Creighton debut vs. Idaho State, then added 16 more on Monday vs. Western Illinois, becoming just the third Creighton player in the last 15 years to start with 12 points or more in each of his first two games, joining Darryl Ashford (2009-10) and Edward St. Fleur (1995-96) … With 12 or more points on Wednesday, Echenique can become the first Bluejay to start his career with three straight games of 12 or more points since Nate King in 1993-94 … On Monday night, Creighton shot 23-of-52 from the floor, making 20-of-33 (60.6 percent) two-point shots but just 3-of-19 shots (15.8 percent) from three-point range. In Samford’s last game, they shot 22-of-55 from the field, making 4-of-16 (25.0 percent) two-point shots but 18-of-39 (46.2 percent) from three-point range.
The Last Time They Played: Samford and Creighton have never met. Likewise, Greg McDermott and Jimmy Tillette have never met. There’s a first time for everything, I suppose.
The Series: Someone will be up 1-0 after tonight.
Gratuitous Linkage: Monday night, I successfully made it through the Creighton game without glancing up at the out-of-town scoreboard where I might inadvertently catch a glimpse of the Vikings-Bears score, as I was DVR’ing the game to watch when I got home. Of course, Brett Favre got hurt, the Vikings lost, and all my attempts to keep the outcome a surprise were wasted.
However, watching the game made it easier to stay up late enough to catch the Lunar Eclipse, which was gnarly. Here’s an astonishingly rad photo gallery of shots from around the world.
Even More Gratuitous Linkage: The word “epic” is thrown around a lot these days, often describing things are not, in fact, epic. This is not one of those times.
Out of Context Simpsons quote: “But, Aquaman, you cannot marry a woman without gills. You’re from two different worlds… Oh, I’ve wasted my life.” -Comic Book Guy
This Date in Creighton Hoops History: Tonight is the fifth straight season that Creighton has played on December 22nd, the longest consecutive streak of any day on the Bluejay schedule. Creighton has won each of those four previous Dec. 22 games by an average of 17.8 points.
The first game in this stretch was five years ago in Honolulu, when the Jays took on Tom Penders’ Houston Cougars in the semifinals of the Rainbow Classic. The previous year, he’d whined about the MVC getting too many at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament, and boasted that none of them could even get the ball across half court against his Cougars. And the day before this game, his players stood in the tunnel mocking the Jays, taunting them and trying to intimidate them. It didn’t work, of course. The Jays made six of their first seven shots from behind the arc in racing out to a big early lead.
Creighton was paced by 21 points and 10 rebounds from Dane Watts, who in addition to his second career double-double also dished out four assists. Isacc Miles had 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 at the line, with two steals, an assist and a blocked shot. Also in double-figures was Anthony Tolliver, who scored eight of his 10 points after intermission. Nick Porter contributed nine points, eight rebounds and three assists off the bench. Fired up by Penders’ smack talk, the Bluejays shot 49 percent for the game (24-49), a season-best 55.6 percent (10-18) from three-point range and 75.9 percent (22-29) at the line.
Completely Random, Totally Rad Music Video of the Day: I can’t help myself. This is tradition. Every year, the last game before Christmas, I link to this video — its been happening for six years, and this makes seven.
For those of you who refuse to enjoy a little cheesy Wham!, here’s “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses, one of the greatest Christmas songs of the 80s, and maybe ever.
Prediction: The Jays hold the Bulldogs shooters in check just enough, and dominate the paint, though the game is close throughout.
Creighton 71, Samford 63