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Morning After: #25 Creighton Melts Down In Final Three Minutes Against #23 Seton Hall, Drops Big East Opener 90-84

Morning After: #25 Creighton Melts Down In Final Three Minutes Against #23 Seton Hall, Drops Big East Opener 90-84

[Box Score]

Recap & Analysis:

Thursday night in Newark, Creighton put together a brilliant first half of basketball by being physical on both ends of the floor. They outrebounded a great rebounding Seton Hall team 22-16, and were even with them on the offensive glass 6-6. They scored 26 points in the paint in those first 20 minutes, getting to the rim seemingly at will and making 17-21 of the two-point shots they attempted (80%). And they turned it over just three times. Because they rebounded the ball, they were able to speed up the game, run in transition, and create mismatches that led to them being able to penetrate Seton Hall’s defense and get all those high-percentage looks near the basket. Because they were getting good shots at the rim, they drew fouls and made 10-11 from the free throw line. And they did all of it without turning the ball over, as the Jays had just three turnovers in that first half.

They survived an injury scare to Marcus Foster, who crumpled to the floor on a drive early in the first half with an apparent knee injury. Flashbacks to January, when Maurice Watson went down at nearly the exact same spot on the floor at Xavier, were unavoidable as Foster was helped off the floor by his teammates. A few minutes later, Foster emerged from the locker room with a huge smile, and checked back into the game. And he sent a message on this ridiculous dunk: his knee was just fine, thank you very much.

Foster scored 12 points over the final 12 minutes of the half, and when he buried a running jumper as the horn sounded, it gave Creighton a 53-42 lead.

They’d done a lot of good things in that half, and were impressive with their offensive execution — the spacing, ball movement, court awareness, and shot selection left the Pirates scrambling and the crowd at The Rock restless. It was almost enough to cover up a really poor half from behind the arc. Creighton made just three of their 16 3-point attempts in that first half, but when you’re up by 11 on the road against a ranked team, who’s worried about that?

After halftime, Seton Hall ratcheted up their physicality and cut off the driving lanes CU had exploited in the first half. Egged on by a large, boisterous Prudential Center crowd, the Pirates played with a different level of intensity than they had in the first. They outrebounded Creighton 24-16, and got key offensive rebounds (and second chance points) at big moments. Angel Delgado, the Pirates’ All-American center, summed it up:

The Jays’ struggles from behind the arc in the first half continued in the second, making just two of the nine 3-pointers they took after the half. Unable to get to the rim, they settled for a lot of jump shots, and that meant they didn’t draw fouls — and when they did, they missed the free throws. CU also got sloppy with the basketball, turning it over nine times, leading to 15 Seton Hall points. Combine the 15-4 edge in points off turnovers in the second half with a 13-1 advantage in made free throws in the second, and it’s not hard to see how Seton Hall turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a six point win.

“The biggest difference to me between the first and the second half was our aggressiveness on the defensive end, and certainly some execution on the defensive end,” Coach Greg McDermott said on his postgame radio show. “Our ball screen coverage got pretty soft, and as a result they were almost able to get a running start at our big men. We didn’t rebound as well, either. We missed free throws. We missed assignments. We had a lot of wide open threes that we missed, and we have to knock those down when the opponent is plugging up the paint.”

On the Bluejay Radio Network pregame show, analyst Nick Bahe talked about the Jays’ point guard situation, and the fact that the Jays don’t have a single player among the league leaders in assists — Khyri Thomas led the way entering the game with 32, and five teammates had between 29-31. While that kind of “team passing” is admirable, Bahe asked the question of who would take over late in a close game, and wondered which of those six players would become the playmaker to help get his team over the top in such a game. How prescient that was; over the final 3-1/2 minutes of Thursday’s game, the Jays scored zero points, went 0-4 from the field, and turned it over three times.

“I don’t think our guys are selfish offensively, and I told them that after the game,” McDermott said. “I do think they’re shouldering too much of the responsibility at trying to go and get us a basket. Rather than trusting the pass, and trusting their teammates, they’re going and trying to make a play at times when it isn’t there. That’s where a couple of the turnovers came from, and a couple of the shots might as well have counted as turnovers because they were terrible shots.”

Key Stats:

Creighton has been outrebounded three times this season; not coincidentally, those are their only three losses. They lost the battle of the boards 42-37 on Thursday, and particularly in the second half, gave up too many offensive rebounds.

The Jays attempted just 15 free throws in the game, and just four in the second half. Seton Hall struggled to convert, making just under 69% of their free throws (22-32), but attempted twice as many and made seven more than the Jays attempted.

Neither team shot well from behind the arc. CU was 5-25, and Seton Hall was 6-16. Threes are a bigger part of Creighton’s game than they are for Seton Hall, and the Jays’ struggles hurt them.

Standout Performance:

Martin Krampelj had a career night, and it’s a shame it was wasted in a loss. He made 11-16 from the floor and had a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds while doing a nice job defensively on Seton Hall’s bigs. Particularly in the first half, Krampelj was almost unstoppable — he had 11 points and five rebounds in the first seven minutes alone.

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