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Morning After: Too Many Missed Layups Lead to Missed Opportunity at Providence in 85-71 Loss

Morning After: Too Many Missed Layups Lead to Missed Opportunity at Providence in 85-71 Loss

[Box Score]

Recap & Analysis:

In the first half of their first game without Martin Krampelj, the Bluejays matched their worst shooting performance in a half all season by making just 29% of their shots — only the second half against Baylor, nearly two months ago, was this bad. The biggest reason for that poor shooting was their inability to finish around the basket, as they made just two of their first 11 attempts at the rim. In the first eight minutes alone, four would-be dunks by Krampelj were instead blocked by Providence defenders when other players took the shots.

Meanwhile, the Friars made eight of their first 11 shots, and had the Jays on the ropes. After a three-pointer by Rodney Bullock with 12:04 to play in the half, Providence led 18-7 and a near-capacity crowd at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was rocking, the Jays were reeling, and the game was one or two possessions away from being out of reach. Fifth-year senior Toby Hegner was the catalyst for the comeback.

After a timeout, Marcus Foster stole the ball from Bullock, and Hegner hit a three to kickstart a 9-0 Bluejay run. A defensive stop and rebound by Hegner in between two Providence bigs led to a transition three from Mitch Ballock. And then on the next possession, Hegner found himself in the middle of the action — literally — when Providence’s Nate Watson popped him in the face with his elbow while fighting for position near the rim. The resulting flagrant foul sent Foster to the line, Hegner to the bench, and resulted in the Jays cutting the deficit to 18-16.

It remained a one-possession game the rest of the half, but the Jays continued their inability to finish at the rim. It was very nearly a team-wide malaise — in the final eight minutes of the half, Foster, Ballock, Ronnie Harrell, Manny Suarez, and Kaleb Joseph all missed at least one layup at the rim.

Ahead 36-33 at the break, Providence had to have felt like they missed a chance to break the game open. And sure enough, two minutes into the second half, the Bluejays grabbed their first lead of the day after a three from Harrell and a three-point play by Foster.

“We were a little too hesitant in the first half, not moving the ball, not being aggressive,” Foster said on the postgame radio show. “As soon as we got going, we were getting easy layups. And some of those layups created open three-point looks for other guys. We’ve got to do that from the tip. Me and Khyri just have to be in attack mode the entire game.”

Unfortunately, after taking that 39-38 lead, the Jays missed their next eight three point attempts, committed three turnovers, and in less than four minutes of game play found themselves down 54-45.

“With the lineup with have now (without Martin), we’re going to have to make more three-point shots,” Coach Greg McDermott said. “We don’t have the personnel to put pressure on the rim, at least from a frontline standpoint. And along with that, our ability to get offensive rebounds isn’t near what it was before.”

They had one more run in them, though. With 6:13 left, Hegner hit a jumper in the paint to get the lead back into single digits at 67-58. Thomas ripped the ball away from Alpha Diallo and raced down court for a layup to make it 67-60:

Hegner cleared a defensive stop with a rebound, and Thomas hit a three to make it 67-63. Harrell answered a bucket by Providence’s Isaiah Jackson with one of his own to make it 69-65 heading into the under-four timeout.

Creighton had momentum, but then came the key sequence in the game.

They got a stop defensively, and with 3:11 to go they found Hegner near the rim for a high-percentage layup. It’s a shot he makes probably 60% of the time, if not more, but this time he left it short. The Friars rebounded the miss, and then the Jays inexplicably lost Jalen Lindsey in transition. He hit a wide-open three in the corner, and instead of a two-point game with under three minutes left, it was now a seven-point game — and was all but over.

“Oh man, yeah, that hurt,” Khyri Thomas said in a moment of brutal honesty on the postgame radio show. “Toby’s got to make that. It happens, but it shouldn’t happen, you know?”

He was equally harsh on his team’s defensive lapse. “Lindsey leaked out in transition for that three, but still, we’ve practiced that exact play over and over for two days. ‘Find Lindsey, find Lindsey!’ is what the coaches drilled constantly. And yet he snuck behind us.”

“At that point in the game, you can’t have those mistakes. It’s that simple.”

McDermott called it the decisive moment of the game. “The game is that fragile sometimes,” he said. “You miss a layup, don’t get back in transition, they hit a three, and that’s the game.”

Key Stats:

Rarely does a game boil down to one stat, but sometimes it really is that simple. 15 missed layups speaks for itself.

Further down the stat sheet, Creighton had it’s worst rebounding margin of the season, as Providence outrebounded them 40-27. The Bluejays and Friars both had seven offensive boards, but the Friars turned their seven into 15 second-chance points — while the Bluejays turned theirs into just five. That ten-point swing proved huge, and was directly attributable to the absence of Martin Krampelj.

“The biggest difference without Martin was rebounding,” Khyri Thomas said on the postgame show. “That 13-rebound gap between us and Providence was all him…he would have had those 13 by himself because he had a double-double almost every game. They punked us on the rebounds.”

Neither team shot terribly well from behind the arc — Providence was 6-18 (33%) and the Bluejays were 7-27 (26%). But the Friars made more free throws (17) than the Jays attempted (14), were better inside the arc (25-40 on two-pointers to the Jays’ 16-31), and scored 36 of their 85 points in the paint.

Standout Performance:

Creighton’s point guards — Davion Mintz, Kaleb Joseph, Ty-Shon Alexander, and Tyler Clement — combined for six points, one assist, and five turnovers. Simply put, it was the worst possible day for all four to play poorly.

“Davion was getting to some good spots in the paint, but he wasn’t making good decisions when he got there,” McDermott said in assessing his starting point guard’s performance. “He had three or four shots blocked that should have ended in jump-stops and kickouts, not in shot attempts. He had some bad turnovers. And then he stepped off Jalen Lindsey early in the second half and let him get going. Understanding your opponent’s personnel is so important. And if you’re on Lindsey in transition, you are not to leave him under any circumstances. We’ve drilled that for two days. That’s why we tinkered with the point guard spot and played Tyler (Clement) as the day went on.”

He was careful to point out it wasn’t just Mintz, and that he wasn’t picking on him in particular. “We told all of them, everything you’re accustomed to for 18, 19 games is different now. Your margin for error is now smaller. We can’t take you off the floor to talk you through it. We can’t have some of the turnovers we had today, or some of the decisions at the rim with the basketball. They have to demand more of themselves, because we’re down a guy.”

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