Blatant honesty: I opened this article up with about four and a half minutes to play. Just went to the under-4 media timeout with a score of 89-64. We make jokes about Creighton blowing last year’s game after leading by 5 with exactly one second left, but I think they might have this one.
So, what went wrong for Marquette on this particular night in Omaha?
Well, a lot of things, honestly.
In the first half, it was clearly the defense that was the problem as the Jays took a 48-38 lead into the half. That was on 37 possessions, so it was an otherwise average performance from Marquette’s offense in the first 20 minutes. If you felt generous, you could even say it was a good performance, given that Markus Howard had nine points at the break and played “only” 16 minutes thanks to picking up two personal fouls.
Mitch Ballock just hit another three.
Coming out of the gate in the second half, Marquette showed the immediate fire needed to wipe out a big halftime deficit. The Golden Eagles had trimmed the lead down to just six points before two minutes wound off the clock. That’s good! That’s exactly what you want to see from a team!
And then Marquette gave up a 10-2 run over the next two minutes of game time. Jays up 14 at that point, and Marquette was effectively dead in the water. I’d like to tell you something fun and interesting about the next 16 minutes and change, but I can’t. A layup from Sacar Anim answered to make it a 12 point game, then the Jays tacked on four more to take it to 16. That 12 point margin was as close as the game would get the rest of the way. Denzel Mahoney got the breakaway layup to hit 20 for the first time after an absolute atrociously careless turnover by Markus Howard given that it was an 18 point game with just under 14 minutes left. It eventually drifted out to 25 on a pair of freebies by Mahoney, and that three I mentioned from Ballock live as it happened earlier? That knocked it to 26, the high water mark for the Bluejays in this one.
That’s a 42-22 run by Creighton after the Golden Eagles punched their way back into fighting distance early in the second half. Sure, some last minute buckets made it a 17 point margin at the very end, but it’s that 42-22 mark that decided the game.
This wasn’t a “guys hit some shots, oh well” game, either. Creighton finished this game with a 24-for-43 mark inside the arc. That’s 55.8% on twos, as it seemed like the Bluejays were largely taking turns deciding who was going to get to take the ball to the rim at various points in the game. That’s particularly galling for a team that came in ranked #14 in the country in two-point shooting defense and #12 in the country in effective field goal percentage defense. For whatever reason — scheme? personnel? luck? effort? — Marquette had absolutely no ability to stay in front of the Bluejays on this particular night.
Theo John, he of the nation’s 31st best block rate coming into tonight, played eight minutes in this game.
He had zero fouls.
Ed Morrow bulldogged CU’s Kelvin Jones to the ground at one point in the first half, and played 19 minutes.
I’m not even sure that’s wrong, given how tiny Creighton’s roster is with Jacob Epperson relegated to the injury report, but I’d like to pretend that Theo John, perhaps the most intimidating rim protector in the entire Big East, had more to contribute to this game than eight minutes and just two in the second half.
Up Next: Oh, just a little thing that I like to call “hosting the #10 team in the country.” On Saturday, Villanova comes to Milwaukee, fresh off a 68-62 home win over Xavier on Monday night. I presume that the Golden Eagles will be running some sprints in the next couple of days, so hopefully they have fresh legs to avoid a second straight horrifying loss.