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Morning After: Marcus Foster’s Career-High 35 Points Lead #20 Creighton to 87-70 Win over Georgetown

Morning After: Marcus Foster’s Career-High 35 Points Lead #20 Creighton to 87-70 Win over Georgetown

[Box Score]

Key Stats:

Both teams score 40 points in the paint, but Creighton turned 15 Georgetown turnovers into 21 points and made six more 3-pointers to make up for the Hoyas making seven more free throws.

Speaking of threes, turnabout was fair play in this one — after Creighton shot 1-18 from three-point range in the first meeting, Georgetown was 3-22 today in the rematch.

Standout Performance:

Marcus Foster scored a career-high 35 points, filling the stat sheet across the board — 13-19 from the floor, 4-6 from three-point range, 5-8 from the line, five rebounds, five assists and a steal in 35 minutes. After his big game Wednesday at Seton Hall, Foster has a combined 58 points, 11 boards and 11 assists over the last two contests.

The timing of his points in Sunday’s win were just as important as the sheer quantity of them: 19 of Foster’s 35 points came in the final four minutes of each half, as he had nine of their last 11 first half points and 10 of their final 12 in the second half. As play-by-play announcer John Bishop called it, that’s a “closer’s mentality.”

He scored on five layups and a dunk, but aside from a few times this season when it’s felt like he’s settled for jump shots as opposed to driving aggressively at the rim, that’s nothing new for Foster. This impressive drive straight at the defense is something we’ve seen a lot from Foster:

What was new, at least to the extent it happened on Sunday, was the way he created for his teammates and crashed the glass. The space he created with his drives (or even the threat of them) opened up looks for both Isaiah Zierden and Cole Huff in a manner similar to what used to happen with Mo Watson on the floor, who both scored in double figures. Foster’s passing and increased focus on creating opportunities for teammates is reflected perfectly in this stat: in six Big East games alongside Mo Watson, Foster had six total assists. In the eight since, he has 28.

His rebounds created transition opportunities, and with 11 combined boards between Khyri Thomas and Foster, that’s 11 opportunities for a guard to get the defense on their heels with a lightning-quick fast break. Foster’s rebounds were similarly electric on offense — in the second half, Foster’s offensive rebound/putback attempt very nearly turned into the highlight reel dunk of the season, as he exploded past a pair of Georgetown defenders, skied above the rim for the ball and attempted a dunk all in the same motion. Though it clanged off the rim, it was a play he wouldn’t have even been in position to make two months ago.

The win was payback for the Jays’ brutal loss in D.C., as he told the media afterward:

Recap & Analysis:

In a game Creighton really needed to win, they led wire to wire with Cole Huff getting things started with a dunk — a DUNK! — on a baseline drive, followed by a three-pointer. After Davion Mintz scored on back-to-back possessions by using his speed to drive into the teeth of Georgetown’s defense and score at the rim:

Justin Patton threw down this dunk and the Jays led 11-4:

Mintz played a big role in that initial surge, both by scoring and by dictating from the outset that this game would be played at CU’s tempo — namely, fast — as opposed to the more methodical pace Georgetown prefers (and that the first meeting was played at).

Meanwhile, their defense prevented Georgetown from executing the pick-and-rolls and back-cuts that are so instrumental to their Princeton offense, and forced them to run a lot of one-on-one and iso plays, which took them out of their comfort zone.

Unlike previous games, Mintz remained in after the first media timeout, and the Jays took a 21-17 lead into the second break. Perhaps they were due for a regression to the mean regardless of who was running the point — they’d made nine of their first 16 shots, after all — but once Tyler Clement came in, the offense went into a funk. They had six straight empty possessions with Clement running the show, including two turnovers and three missed shots, as they allowed Georgetown to slow things down. And after Justin Patton picked up his second foul at the 8:31 mark, the energy inside the CenturyLink Center was uneasy despite a 24-20 Jays lead.

It was their defense that seized momentum back. Khyri Thomas ripped the ball away from fellow Omaha native Akoy Agau and fed it to Huff in transition for his second dunk of the day:

The Jays led 30-25 with five minutes to play following that bucket, and then got seven straight points from Foster to retain a seven-point lead despite Georgetown making a late push. A bit of momentum swung on the final possession of the half, as the Hoyas milked the clock down to get the last shot, then chucked up an airball that was rebounded by Huff. Compounding the mistake: Rodney Pryor fouled Huff 90 feet from the hoop with one second left. Huff made one of two, and the Jays took a 41-33 edge into the locker room. It was a solid end for a Bluejay team that hasn’t always ended halves on the best note.

A quick start to the second was equally important, and the first four minutes set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. After two quick baskets in the first minute, sandwiched around a Patton turnover, cut the lead to 41-38 Creighton’s defense held Georgetown to just two made baskets on their next 15 attempts. That gave their offense room to run in transition, and they took full advantage. This wild sequence led to a three from Foster:

And then these two Patton dunks, coming a minute apart, pushed the lead to double-digits at 50-40.

On the next possession, Thomas blocked a shot and then drained a three to give Creighton a 53-40 lead. They’d outscored the Hoyas 12-7 over the first four minutes of the second half, stopping their opponent from getting any early momentum or from harboring any realistic ideas about pulling the upset.

Later in the half, their defense forced Georgetown into missed shots on six straight possessions, including this incredible steal by Thomas that led to a dunk from Foster:

With a 75-60 lead at the final media timeout, Creighton fans knew first-hand that no lead is safe against the Hoyas — blowing a double-digit lead in 2-1/2 minutes will do that to you — so when they struggled to break the Georgetown press and turned it over, leading to two straight fouls and a pair of free throws, Greg McDermott called for timeout to settle his team down.

While the Hoyas had designs on another comeback, Foster had other ideas. He immediately drove the ball to the rack and drew a foul, then made both free throws to push the lead back to 15. After a layup on the other end by L.J. Peak, he answered with a jumper of his own, and it might have been the toughest shot he took all day, both in terms of degree of physical difficulty and the moment in which it was taken.

In an ordinary game, that might well have been the dagger, but after Foster was inadvertantly fouled across his face with 1:27 left, sending him to the line where he made both free throws, he apparently decided the game needed a more emphatic ending. And so on the next trip down, he did this:

That looooong three-pointer — 25 feet out, perhaps? — gave the Jays a 19-point lead, 87-68, and more importantly gave Foster a new career high with 35 points.

Creighton really needed a win on Sunday, both to calm the nerves of a fanbase uneasy following a tough mid-week loss at Seton Hall and to add another Top 100 win to their post-Mo Watson resume for NCAA Tournament seeding. They got it thanks to the backcourt duo of Thomas and Foster, who overwhelmed the Hoyas — Thomas defensively, Foster offensively.

Here’s two minutes of Thomas making Georgetown’s life a living hell defensively. Enjoy!

If Foster and Thomas continue to play at that level, it’s not exactly going out on a limb to say the Hoyas won’t be the last team this season to be overwhelmed by them.

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