Marquette Golden Eagles (9-9, 5-7 Big East) vs #15 Creighton Bluejays (13-5, 9-4 Big East)
Date: Saturday, February 6, 2021
Time: 4pm Central
Location: A very empty Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Dawson Garcia, 12.7 points/game
Rebounds: Dawson Garcia, 6.8 rebounds/game
Assists: D.J. Carton, 3.6 assists/game
Marquette Injury Note: Freshman forward Justin Lewis has missed the past two games with an ankle injury. He is listed as questionable for this game. Theo John suffered a twisted ankle at the very least last time out against Butler. He barely even left the game, only departing for the rules mandated substitution because the trainer came out to check on him but checked right back in at the next available moment. These things can change from moment to moment, but with head coach Steve Wojciechowski saying postgame that John is already barely practicing due to a lingering knee issue, I don’t feel comfortable guaranteeing that the senior forward will play in this game. With that said, he’s not listed in the game notes in the injury department with Lewis.
Creighton Stats Leaders
Points: Denzel Mahoney, 15.6 points/game
Rebounds: Christian Bishop, 5.3 rebounds/game
Assists: Marcus Zegarowski, 4.5 assists/game
Game Projection: Creighton has a 66% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 76-71.
Last Time Out: Marquette went out to Omaha and defeated then-#9 Creighton, 89-84. After trailing by as many as 12 in the first half and by nine at intermission, the Golden Eagles took three-pointers off the table for the Bluejays to build a 12 point lead of their own in the second half. Creighton had attempted 19 threes in the first half, but through the first 15 minutes of the second half, they had only let fly six times and none of those came between the 13:52 mark and the 5:21 mark. The Bluejays fired off seven threes in the final five minutes, and, uh, that 12 point lead disappeared pretty quickly. A Mitch Ballock three-pointer with 33 seconds left cut the margin down to just three points.... but free throws from the Golden Eagles iced the victory.
Since Last We Met: That game was the Big East opener for both teams, and Creighton responded to the loss like a top ten team should: By ripping off six straight wins. They dropped the next two, somewhat surprisingly, in overtime on the road against Butler and at home against Providence. The Bulldogs went on a 17-2 run late to force overtime, which is not something you ever want to hear, even if you end up winning that game. Against the Friars, Creighton found themselves in a 13-2 hole out of the gate. They would rally back to within three at 29-26, but the Friars took control after halftime. Creighton would get it close late, just two points with a minute to play, but they couldn’t bring it home.
They won their next three after that, but this past Wednesday was a very confusing outing. They lost, at home, to a going nowhere fast Georgetown team, and it wasn’t close, at least not at the end. The Bluejays needed a 13-2 run bridging halftime to tie the game at 44, but the Hoyas withstood the attack, rebuilt their lead, and closed out the game for the 86-79 victory.
Tempo Free Fun: Well, the good news here is that Marquette has a gameplan that’s capable of beating the Bluejays, although it’s the most obvious game plan in the world against Creighton: Don’t let them shoot threes. The bad news is that Marquette was only able to activate said game plan for about 12 minutes. In the other 28 minutes, the Bluejays fired off 32 three-pointers, made 14 of them, and outscored Marquette 73-58.
Uh, that’s really bad!
I’d like to point at something else that Marquette did that won them this game, but I can’t. More accurately, I can’t point at something that’s repeatable. I don’t think that Marquette is going to shoot 57% on 21 three-point attempts again. I don’t think the Bluejays are going to shoot 56% from the free throw line again.
Marquette might be able to grab 43% of their misses for a second chance again. That’s way over their season average, sure, but Marquette is a pretty good offensive rebounding team in terms of rate at least, and Creighton stinks at grabbing misses on both ends. It’s their one true flaw as a team, although I suspect that the bad offensive rebounding is a tactical decision by head coach Greg McDermott. After all, if you were running an offense that was this good at taking and making threes, you’d stop worrying about a second chance, too. With that said, Marquette has to take advantage of this weakness and extend their own possessions as often as possible while desperately avoiding the Bluejays reloading behind the arc for a second look at the rim.
I don’t know if 19 assists on 30 made baskets is something Marquette can replicate against Creighton this time around, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt. While Dawson Garcia is leading the team in scoring, he’s only a tenth of a point in front of Koby McEwen and two-tenths of a point in front of D.J. Carton. It’s not a secret that Marquette does not have that one major dominant source of offense on this roster. But, you can counter that by sharing the ball better than everyone else and keeping your opponents off balance in terms of trying to figure out where it’s going next. Back in the early parts of this season, which is when the first meeting between these two teams happened, it seemed like Marquette was devoted to fizzing the ball around to get the best shot not just a good shot. If they can dig deep and find that ability again here, that will help them pull the upset for the second time this season.
I know, it doesn’t sound optimistic to say “boy, MU sure maxed out their potential beating the Bluejays last time out, I dunno if they can do it again.” The flipside of that coin is that this is that same Bluejays team. They do know how to beat these guys. In fact, Steve Wojciechowski has had a weird amount of success against Creighton over the past several years. If he knows how to counteract McDermott’s gameplans and can do it again, well, I’m certainly not going to say no to a season sweep of Creighton.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 4-6, with Tuesday’s win over Butler snapping a three game losing streak.
Creighton Last 10 Games: 7-3, with Wednesday’s loss to Georgetown snapping a three game winning streak.
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 56-35.
Current Streak: Marquette snapped a two-game burst by the Bluejays by winning earlier this year, so the Golden Eagles have now won seven of the last nine meetings.
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