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Morning After: #22 Creighton Picks Up Huge Road Win at #16 Butler, 76-67

Morning After: #22 Creighton Picks Up Huge Road Win at #16 Butler, 76-67

[Box Score]

Key Stats:

Creighton shoots 8-12 from three-point range in the first half, and 5-9 in the second, good for 61.9% — their best shooting performance of the entire season. They assisted on 19 of their 29 made baskets, including an incredible 11 of their 14 first-half baskets.

They gave up 13 offensive boards, but Butler missed 39 shots (including 20 missed three-pointers leading to strange bounces); in that context, it’s not nearly as bad as it seemed, as giving up an offensive rebound 33% of the time is only slightly higher than the D1 average of 29.6%.

Standout Performance:

Justin Patton scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half to go along with six rebounds and two blocks — while playing 19 of the 20 minutes — and was as big a reason the Jays won this game as anyone.

His two second-half blocks were downright NASTY. Here’s the first:

And the second:

But the Jays’ point guard play deserves praise, too. The platoon of Davion Mintz and Tyler Clement was outstanding, combining for 11 points on 4-6 shooting, nine assists, five rebounds, and just three turnovers. Mintz is a better scorer, Clement a little better facilitator, and with them settling into their roles as co-point guards on this team, their combination on Tuesday night made the Bluejay offense awfully difficult to defend.

Clement had a pair of gorgeous passes to Patton for baskets on consecutive second-half possessions — the first on a pick-and-roll that led to an alley-oop dunk, the second on a pass he wrapped around a defender. The dunk was a play the Jays used to run for Doug McDermott called “Dakota”, as several former players pointed out on Twitter, including Ethan Wragge (though it usually resulted in a layup for Doug, not a ruthless dunk):

Recap & Analysis:

After two clunky losses to Marquette and Georgetown following the injury to Maurice Watson, a lot of the college basketball world was quick to write off the Bluejays, as their precipitous drop in the polls illustrated. With apologies to Mark Twain, rumors of their demise were greatly exaggerated.

CU had been in a prolonged shooting slump, but from the outset Tuesday night, they were on fire. In the first four minutes of the game, they were 3-5 from three-point range, with Cole Huff, Khyri Thomas, and Justin Patton connecting, and three different players assisting on each (Patton fired a bullet to Huff for the first; Marcus Foster passed to a trailing Patton for the second; Davion Mintz made the extra pass to set up the third, from Thomas.)

Butler had an answer for all of them, however, and led 15-13 when Patton headed to the bench at the 12:20 mark after picking up two fouls 26 seconds apart. Zach Hanson scored on back-to-back possessions, the first on a dunk and the second on a nifty post move to get around a defender, but their defense couldn’t get a stop and the Bulldogs led 20-17 despite Hanson’s buckets. What immediately followed was one of the most critical junctures in the game, and maybe (if you’ll allow me some hyperbole) in the season.

Tyler Lewis hit a pair of free throws, Andrew Chrabascz made a layup, and the Bulldogs pushed their lead out to 24-17. Huff missed a midrange jumper, and as the Hinkle Fieldhouse crowd prepared to explode, Sean McDermott rose up for a three that rolled harmlessly off the rim. Had that shot gone in? It’s a 10-point Butler lead, the crowd is going berserk, and Creighton’s on the ropes, staggering from what might have been a knockout punch.

Instead, Isaiah Zierden drained a three on the other end to cap a furious two-minute stretch without a whistle, and Greg McDermott called timeout to let his guys catch their breaths. And instead of Creighton being on the wrong end of a big run, they were on the other side of that equation as Zierden’s three jump-started a 12-0 burst. Huff added a three to give them the lead 26-24, Thomas extended it to 29-24 with a three of his own, and after Butler finally broke the scoreless drought, Huff hit another three to push the advantage out to 32-28. Finally, Thomas hit his third triple of the half in the final minute, giving CU a 37-33 lead.

The offensive execution was crisp, certainly, and it makes a world of difference when you’re hitting open three-pointers that you’ve been missing. But defensively, they were stellar — Butler missed nine straight shots during that stretch, many of them difficult, contested shots that were dictated by the defense, instead of shots the Bulldogs wanted to take.

Butler scored the first five points of the second half to retake the lead, 38-37, but it lasted all of 32 seconds before the Jays’ freshmen took over the game. Mintz scored on a drive to the rim bookended by a pair of Patton layups, and following a three from Foster, the Jays led by eight, 46-38. Look at the execution on this play — that’s vintage Creighton basketball:

After the timeout, Mintz hit a three, Patton nailed a midrange jumper, and Mintz hit another three to cap a 17-4 run that gave the Bluejays a 12-point lead. Of the 17 points scored in the burst, 14 were scored by Patton and Mintz; meanwhile defensively, after allowing scores on two of Butler’s first three possessions in the half, the Jays gave up points on only one of their next eight.

The 16th ranked Bulldogs didn’t go down without a fight. Three straight buckets cut the lead to 54-49, and had the home crowd rocking. Once again, it was a freshman who silenced them. Patton threw down a vicious alley-oop off a lob from Clement:

and then made baskets on each of the next two possessions as well, and the Jays were back up by double-digits at 60-49. At that point, the Jays’ freshmen had scored 20 of their 23 points in the half.

The vets took them home. Foster and Thomas held the Bulldogs at bay the rest of the way, combining for the team’s next 10 points and helping the team build a 72-59 lead with four minutes left, and Clement ran the point without turning it over, made his free throws, and the Jays got out of Indy with a huge win.

It was the Bluejays’ ninth win in 10 games away from home this year, their third win over a ranked team in the month of January, and moved their record to 6-1 against teams in the RPI Top 50 (and 10-3 against the Top 100). And it made some of the national writers who wrote them off sit up and take notice, as CBS’ Gary Parrish and NBC’s Rob Dauster gave each other a hard time on Twitter following the game for doing that:

Dauster took things one step further and admitted he was wrong in a column posted on NBC Sports’ College Basketball Talk site.

The win is huge in terms of rehabbing an image that many national writers (like Parrish and Dauster) felt was tarnished in the wake of Watson’s injury. It’s even bigger in how it sets up the Jays for the next month; after a home game with a suddenly reeling Xavier team dealing with losing their own point guard in Edmond Sumner to an ACL injury, they play at DePaul and Seton Hall before returning home to play Georgetown and Providence. They’ve got an excellent chance to win all five of those games, and if they do? A second showdown with Villanova awaits on the 25th, this time on national network TV and quite possibly for the Big East title.

They Said It:

“The win at Xavier was a culture win, and this is a real similar. We have two guys that have hardly played all year in Davion and Tyler that have just done a fabulous job of running this basketball team. It’s allowed us to move Z back to his natural position, and he came off the bench and played well on both ends of the floor for us tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. This is a hard place to win against a really good basketball team. We defended. We made them take some challenged shots. Obviously they got some offensive rebounds but they also missed 40 shots. You’re going to get a few offensive boards with that many misses, especially with Justin on the bench as much as he was the first half. I’m really proud of our team, because we’re getting better. We’re figuring out who we are without Maurice, and that’s improving a little bit every day.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM postgame

“I don’t have to tell Tyler much. He knows the other team’s offense better than me or anybody on our staff (laughs). He gets no reps with the first-team in practice, and yet he knows exactly what we’re supposed to do. He’s a true student of the game. And he doesn’t get rattled. Every year he’s just gotten a little more confident. He’s worked on his ball-handling so that’s more solid. He made a couple of really nice plays going to the basket tonight, he made a couple of nice passes, and he was really sound defensively. They tried to go at him a few times, and he fought tooth and nail to keep guys out of the middle so they had to shoot jump shots. He was great the first half, Davion was great to start the second half, and then Tyler brought us home. I was really proud of the way both of them played.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM postgame

“Our execution of our offensive sets were really good tonight. The timing was good, the spacing was good, and then of course you have to make the shots. It’s a simple game. It’s make shots or miss shots. If we miss three and they make three more, it’s an even game. Tonight, our shooters who’ve struggled in Big East play got back to how we shot in the non-conference. It was good to see Khyri rise up and shoot it with confidence. Marcus hit a couple of big ones. Obviously Cole got us off to a great start. Davion hits a couple in the second half. But I also thought Zach and Toby’s play the first half with Justin on the bench was really good. Zach got a couple of easy baskets around the rim. Toby was able to stretch the floor with his shooting even though he make one, the threat of him making them opened up the floor and now Marcus and Khyri are able to get downhill towards the rim.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM postgame

“Khyri defended so well. Kelan Martin is a great player, and he shot 5-12 tonight. I think he was 3-12 or something at our place. So Khyri had the toughest assignment defensively, and offensively he continues to play with confidence. We haven’t done a lot to work on his shot; we’ve narrowed up his stance just a little bit because we thought it was getting a little wide, and he’s worked his way through that. But he hasn’t lost his confidence. He rose up in transition a couple of times tonight and let it fly, and that’s how we want our guys to play. He’s also elevated his voice and his leadership on this team with Maurice gone, and he and Marcus have really changed their approach to leading this team. It’s taken them a while to understand that they have to do that. Marcus, I’m not sure he had three assists total over the first 15 games, and the last two games he’s had three in each game. He’s making plays for his teammates. His shot selection is much better. He’s really embraced the role we need him to play now.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM postgame

“I’m really proud of the way the ball moved. Early in the second half, we made a couple of extra passes that were really impressive. Guys had an open shot but passed it up, made one more pass to get an even better shot. Davion did it once in the corner and then he got the favor returned to him on the other side of the floor and he knocked it down. That’s the way we have to play. That’s the way our offense has to function.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM postgame

“We noticed on film that the last couple of games, when we move the ball we’re tough to guard. I mean, we just tried to keep the ball moving and keep getting ball screens, because that keeps the defense guessing and puts them on their heels. We did a great job of that. Everybody hit big-time shots, too. Guys were hitting their shots after a drive-and-kick. Just a great team offensive win.” -Tyler Clement on 1620AM Postgame

“We’re a lot more confident now that maybe a couple of games ago, right after the Maurice injury, and the mood in the huddle after they got up by seven was just — ‘We’ve got to get stops.’ And we held them to, I think, one bucket on nine straight possessions or something. We know that’s what we have to do, to lock down defensively, because when we get stops we can get out and run. That was the key to the whole game. Locking down defensively. They made some tough shots, we did have some mess-ups, but overall we played well and stuck to the gameplan.” -Tyler Clement on 1620AM Postgame

“We wanted to keep the defense moving and get to the ball screen, and that’s where we got JP open tonight on some of those rolls. Once we started hitting some shots they weren’t really helping off the shooters, so that opened up the ball screen between me and JP. We wanted to keep attacking downhill and take advantage of that.” -Tyler Clement on 1620AM Postgame

You Said It:

About Tom Nemitz

Tom is the creative production manager at an Omaha advertising agency, and holds a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from Creighton University. In his spare time, he covers Creighton sports for WBR, which he co-founded with four others in 2009.
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