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Morning After: Creighton Runs Away from UNO in Charity Exhibition, 96-67

Morning After: Creighton Runs Away from UNO in Charity Exhibition, 96-67

[Box Score]

“Bluejay Beat” Postgame Podcast:

Key Stats:

Creighton gives up 19 offensive rebounds, though in all fairness, UNO missed a whopping 44 shots — 23 of them three-pointers, many of which took odd bounces — so there were a helluva lot of opportunities to grab an offensive board. The total might be deceiving, but the percentage is ugly. Allowing an offensive board on nearly 50% of a team’s misses isn’t going to cut it.

Speaking of the paint, Omaha attempted 29 layups but made just eight of them. They consistently were able to create good, close looks and should have made more than they did. If they had, their total of 28 points in the paint probably would have been close to the 50 points in the paint Minnesota hung on the Jays Sunday in their closed scrimmage. That’ll improve as the season goes on, but right now Creighton is surrendering too much in the paint.

The offense looked more promising. CU shot 35-70 from the field, and had an assist on 22 of their 35 made baskets. The overall three-point shooting numbers (14-33) aren’t staggering — though it’s saying something that 42% from long range isn’t eye-popping, because that’s a good number for a lot of teams. A great number, really. The Jays haven’t adopted “Let It Fly” as their tagline for no reason. This is a team built to outscore you and use an array of offensive weapons to overcome whatever deficiencies exist on defense and the glass. As always, some nights that won’t be enough. But more often than not, it will.

Standout Performance:

Marcus Foster led the way with 22 points, and was incredibly efficient — 8-11 from the field, 4-7 from three-point range, 2-2 from the line — and grabbed five rebounds and dished out two assists, too. Though his ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim is unparalleled on this Jays’ team, rest assured his shooting range remains absurd:

He also had this ridiculous dime to Manny Suarez in the second half:

Khyri Thomas scored 19, and though his 8-17 shooting line wasn’t quite as efficient, it showed that the talk of him taking a more assertive role on offense isn’t just talk. If this were a game that counted, his 17 shot attempts would be a career high.

As we know, Tazz can shoot from three, as well:

But he’s not content to let Foster have all the fun on the baseline:

Matt and Jon talked about it on the “Bluejay Beat” postgame, and it’s an excellent observation: outside of the final few minutes, Foster and Thomas never sat on the bench at the same time. They’re the two most important players on this year’s team, and as such at least one of them needs to be on the floor at all times.

Recap & Analysis:

Creighton had never played a game, exhibition or otherwise, in the month of October before last night. At times, the earliness of this game in the preseason calendar showed — there were stretches where sloppy turnovers, poor shot selection, and defensive miscues made for some bad basketball. In one second half sequence, they turned it over on four out of five possessions.

But is that cause for concern? No. It’s October, and while the sloppiness of the play was undoubtable, so was the level of talent on the floor. Creighton possesses two of the 15 best players in the Big East, and one of them is in the conversation for player of the year. The supporting cast isn’t spectacular (yet), but probably good enough to keep them competitive most nights — and with Foster and Thomas leading, that should make the Jays good enough to be on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday.

Of the players in that supporting cast, the one with the biggest night on Thursday was Manny Suarez — or “Mad Dog Manny” as people took to calling him on Twitter during the game. He had a great debut with 14 points, eight boards, two blocks, one assist and a steal in 11 minutes. Those numbers might not be repeatable (and they’re probably not), but he’s a better player than you’d expect a late DII grad transfer to be. He fits into Creighton’s system, and as part of a three or four man platoon in the middle, should be able to give the Jays 8-10 really solid minutes a game.

Ronnie Harrell had a nice night, too, though. The junior came up one point shy of a double-double, finishing with nine points, 13 rebounds (!), two assists and a steal. 10 of the rebounds came in the second half alone. While his activity and energy level were off the charts — that’s never been Harrell’s issue — the areas where he had struggled in the past showed improvement. His decision making with the basketball were smarter. The tendency to make silly mistakes that lead to a cheap foul or a turnover were nonexistent. He looked like an upperclassman for whom the light has come on, in other words, and while he’s not the solution at point guard as some fans are insisting, he’ll certainly be an “unofficial” point guard in transition — with his ability to grab rebounds, who better to initiate a fast break than the guy who already has the ball in his hands?

One week from now, the Jays will return to the floor for their final exhibition tuneup against UNC Pembroke. With two games against actual opponents under their belt, and two full games of film to study (plus another week of practices) expect a much cleaner, tighter game on both ends of the floor.


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See photos from WBR photographer Mike Spomer of the game.

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