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Morning After: Seton Hall 67, Creighton 66

Morning After: Seton Hall 67, Creighton 66

[Box Score]

Key Stat:

Creighton outscores Seton Hall 14-6 on points in the paint in the first half, but The Hall flips the script in the second half, outscoring the Jays 24-14 in that category.

Standout Performance:

Austin Chatman scored 23 points on 9-18 shooting, including 5-9 from three-point range, in 39 minutes of action. It was his best offensive game of the year, and a reminder that the Jays’ recent span of improved play has coincided with his resurgence from a mid-season slump. If the Jays had won this game, we’d be talking about his cold-blooded shots in key moments as a big factor in the win. After the Pirates cut the lead to one midway through the second half, he calmly drained a three to push the lead back to four. A minute later, they cut the lead to one again, and Chatman again answered with a calm, confident jumper. With five minutes to go and the Jays clinging to a two-point lead, he drained a three to push the lead back out to five. And in the final minute with his team down by a point, after James Milliken missed a three-pointer and the rebound was corralled by Rick Kreklow, it was Chatman who, in the midst of chaos, calmly sank a jumper to give them the lead.

This loss hurts for a whole lot of reasons, but pretty damn high up the list is that it wastes a great performance from the Jays’ senior guard, who did just about everything he could to will the team to victory.

Recap & Analysis:

This sucks. There’s no better way to sum up another in a long line of gut-punch losses for a team that has suffered too many of them than to simply say that it sucks. For the fifth time in 16 Big East games this season, Creighton lost a game they led in the final minute, with four of those losses coming when the opponent hit a shot in the final 16 seconds, and two of them coming to the same team — Seton Hall.

The Bluejays led by as many as 14 points in the first half, by 12 in the second half, and still led by five with three minutes left. They held a lead for 37 minutes and 59 seconds, and Seton Hall didn’t have a lead at all until there was 1:21 to play. This was a game the Bluejays controlled for a good majority of the afternoon, frustrating the Pirates to the point where one of their better players, Angel Delgado, was in tears on the bench and refusing to join the huddle during timeouts, having mentally checked out of the game.

In the first half the Jays were doing good things on both ends of the floor, with nine assists on 13 made baskets offensively, and defensively forcing eight Pirate turnovers while keeping them out of the paint as they took jump shot after jump shot, usually misfiring badly. Avery Dingman was doing his best Dikembe Mutombo impression with three blocked shots. Austin Chatman was channelling 2013 as he had 13 points on an array of three-pointers, mid-range jumpers and finishes at the rim. Geoffrey Groselle was dominating the low post, making 4-5 from the field. It was a helluva half of basketball on the road, and given the Pirates’ body language both in the first half and as they went to the locker room, it looked like one more good Bluejay run might do them in.

Instead, it was Seton Hall who made a run to open the second half, cutting the lead down to six just a minute in. The Jays withstood it and pushed their lead back out to double-digits, however, and led 43-31 with 16:56 to go. That’s when the Pirate game plan changed, and along with it, the fortunes of the game.

On their next seven possessions, they scored all seven times, with six layups and two free throws. At the end of their run, they’d cut the lead to 48-47, and though thoughts of taking the lead were squashed by an Austin Chatman three-pointer, they were no longer settling for the bad shots Creighton wanted them to take. They scored 24 of their 43 points in the second half in the paint, and 28 of their 30 shot attempts came inside the arc. Angel Delgado, who’d all but quit on the game in the first half, nearly had a double-double in the second half alone — he had 13 points and 8 rebounds after halftime. Further illustrating their change in gameplan (and fortunes), Khadeen Carrington scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, and Isaiah Whitehead had six of his seven assists after the break.

Despite all that, the Jays clung to a five-point lead with four minutes left. Frustratingly, they took the air out of the ball and tried to shorten the game by waiting until late in the shot clock to begin running their offense — while it succeeded at milking time off the clock, it also killed their offensive flow and took away any chance at a finding a shot in rhythm. Not surprisingly, they missed their next three shots and ended another possession with a turnover. Meanwhile, Carrington was wasting no time finding a shot on the other end, and connected on back-to-back possessions to cut the Jays lead to one, followed by two free throws to give them the lead. And though Chatman put the Jays back ahead, 66-65, with a jumper with 30 seconds left, that left the Pirates plenty of time…especially against a team that has shown time after time that they can’t get a defensive stop on the final possession of a close game.

And like clockwork, the final seconds were a nightmare come back to life, an unwelcome encore to the first meeting with the Pirates. The final score was eerily similar — 67-66 on Saturday compared to 68-67 the first time around — and so was the way the game finished. In the first matchup, Creighton led by two before Sterling Gibbs’ three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left, and on Saturday, the Bluejays had a one-point lead before Angel Delgado’s putback won them the game. Likewise, in the first game, James Milliken missed an open three that would have won the game after Gibbs’ shot, and this time he missed the final shot that would have won the game despite Delgado’s heroics.

Avery Dingman summed it up on the postgame radio show pretty well, and it’s a sentiment shared by Bluejay fans everywhere. “It’s a gut-wrenching way to lose, and it’s happened too many times. It hurts.”

Quotables:

(On the last defensive series) “We decided to go to a 2-3 zone. They were really carving us up with the ball screen, and I thought in the first half Whitehead made the decision to come off the ball screen and shoot some tough shots. In the second half, he was finding Delgado on the roll, and he was really putting our help in a tough spot. So we decided to go zone. And frankly, they took the shot we wanted them to take. I was too far away to see what happened down there, but I know Delgado is one of, or is, the best rebounder in the league and we kept him in check on the offensive glass most of the game. But that was certainly a big one for him to go and get it, and tip it back in.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM Postgame

“Ricky picking up his fourth foul was big, because it took one of our best offensive players off the floor. They were plugging it up on some of our guys and daring them to shoot. We took the dare, which you can’t do in that situation, especially early in the shot clock. And as I told Ricky, three of his four fouls were on block-outs. So that’s kind of on him. C’mon Ricky, you have to execute the fundamentals of the blockout without knocking a guy into the stands. But without question he’s been one of our more consistent players so to have him on the bench was a big blow to us.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM Postgame

“When they started to double the post, I wanted to see movement and spacing. You know, I think one time we got a good look out of the double, but when Geoff scores like he did before that people are going to come after him. On that particular play, he’s got to go to his left shoulder — his right hand — and try to pass out of the double, which is a little trickier. But we just gotta get somebody to the basket and space the floor to get our shooters space and then Geoff needs to make a good decision with the ball. We probably didn’t have the post presence we needed the second half. I thought in the first half those guys were deep, they were sealing, and in the second half they weren’t doing that as much. Obviously, they turned their pressure up and came with the double-teams, and the guys that were helping on the double, those defensive guys did a good job keeping the ball out of there.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM Postgame

“I really hurt for my team, because man…it’s a lot over the course of the season. I thought they were ready to play, they were focused at the start of the game. We withstood their little run at the start of the second half and then took it back to 12, and forced them to take a timeout. And after that timeout, they scored six layups on two free throws in seven possessions. We’ve talked all week about shrinking the floor, and making them shoot jump shots, and I’ll have to go look at film to see if it was breakdowns, or if it was them just going and making some good plays.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM Postgame

“Will didn’t play much in the second half because we were looking for more of a post presence offensively, and we thought maybe Zach could do that. And Geoff had played the best so when we went back to the second guy, we discussed whether it should be Geoff or Will, and we felt as a staff that with how well Geoff had played that he would be the guy we’d go to. It’s a coin-flip, sometimes, with those guys. But without question over the last month, Geoff’s been our most consistent guy and that’s why we decided to go with him when the game was on the line.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM Postgame

“At the end of these close games, it’s been different things at different times. Today was an offensive rebound. We didn’t have a timeout, but I liked what we did. We got space, we had movement, we had guys crashing the offensive glass on our last offensive possession. Austin makes a great shot fake, the defender leaves his feet, and that’s supposed to be an automatic foul but it wasn’t called. And then Geoff rushed it, but in Geoff’s defense it’s hard to know with everything going on how much time is left. And he’s just trying to make sure he gets it up in the air. And then James hit the floor, got off the floor, got hit again, so our guys were fighting right to the very end. It’s tough. It hurts. It’s been different things in each game. We had opportunities for separation today. That was my message in the locker room. We didn’t lose the game in the last two minutes. We lost the game at about the 14-minute mark when we had a chance to really separate ourselves, take the air out of it, and win the game. Defensively, I thought we were half-a-step slow in the second half. I told my staff I thought we looked really tired in the second half, I didn’t think we had near the energy for whatever reason. We played guys some big minutes because of that foul trouble. Austin and James didn’t come out of the game very much. I hurt for my team because they continue to fight. Sometimes you need the bounce of the ball. They get an offensive rebound and finish, we get two offensive rebounds but we can’t get our shots to go in. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM Postgame

“We’ve gone this long and haven’t pointed fingers at each other. We’re not going to start now. But this one stings because we were in a position to move up another spot in the league standings and continue the pretty good run that we’ve been on. For most of the game, we controlled it. They led for a minute and five seconds, we led for the other 38 minutes. Those are tough ones. But I think we have enough maturity in our locker room, and guys that want to finish this thing off strong, and our seniors are really really good at doing what we ask them to do to move this thing forward. I’m confident that we’ll do that tomorrow.” -Coach Greg McDermott on 1620AM Postgame

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