Polyfro Postgame: Jays 72, Evansville 64
7:04. If the Jays season turns around, we might look back at the 7:04 mark of the second half on Sunday might as the moment in time when it happened. After a 17-2 run erased a double-digit Jays lead and gave the Aces the lead, 58-56, the collective groan from Omaha was audible. I heard it. Or maybe that was just my furnace struggling in the subzero temperatures. Either way, there was a loud groaning sound…
This team had blown double-digit leads so often this season that it became the most consistent weapon in their arsenal. Each time it had happened, the team wilted once the lead had been relinquished, going on to lose. There was certainly no reason to think Sunday would be any different; even against Evansville, a 17-2 run has a particular way of knocking the wind out of a team.
But Sunday was different.
After the latest meltdown in Terre Haute on Friday, the players held a closed door meeting. As USA Today so eloquently described it, “Team meetings can send mixed signals. It’s good somebody cares enough to recognize problems and the need to find solutions. It’s bad that things get to that point.” Many fans would probably tell you things were at that point a few weeks ago. What went on in that room is between the players, but two players who have been vocal with the press during the struggles put some bite behind their statements by steering the team out of the abyss on Sunday.
At the 7:36 mark, Ryan Colt hit a three-pointer to cap the 17-2 run for Evansville and give them a 58-56 lead. Dana Altman called timeout. Fans, coaches and players alike all felt like they’d seen this game before. Except Justin Carter decided he’d seen it too often, and scored the team’s next four points. A tough layup with 7:04 to go in the game tied the score at 58, and the fact that it came just 32 seconds after Evansville had taken the lead at least showed the Jays were going to fight. After the Aces retook the lead on their next possession, Carter drew a foul and made two free throws at the 6:36 mark to once again tie the game. Now it was Evansville calling timeout.
On the ensuing possession, Evansville missed two shots with Carter corralling the board on the second miss. The Jays failed to score on offense, but after another Evansville miss on the other end, Kenny Lawson took a feed from Antoine Young for a bucket in the paint and drew a foul. He completed a three-point play by sinking the free throw, and the Jays had retaken the lead, 63-60. On Evansville’s next possession, Lawson blocked a shot, then sank a jumper to give the Jays a 65-60 advantage with 3:36 to play.
Lawson would had two more blocks and three more rebounds down the stretch as the Jays pulled away for a 72-64 win. On the day, he went 8-13 from the floor, 2-3 from the line, grabbed 11 boards, blocked 7 shots and scored 18 points in 27 minutes. As MC Hammer once rapped, “Yo, sound the bell, school’s in, sucka!”
Carter was 5-8 from the floor, 3-5 from the line, grabbed 8 boards, and scored 14 points.
Those two players refused to allow Creighton’s latest meltdown to result in a loss, and put the team on their backs for an important stretch of basketball that not only saved the game, but maybe the season. Think I’m crazy? With last-place Drake coming to town Wednesday, the Jays could win, get to 2-2 in the league and be just one game out in the loss column from second place. All in all, not a terrible place to be given the panic that was creeping in late last week. And certainly a place that allows room for maneuvering in the weeks ahead.
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