The Creighton men's basketball team closed out the nonconference schedule with a 90-58 stomping of the Chicago State Cougars on Sunday.
The Jays' offense was firing on all cylinders as the team tied a school record with 16 made 3-pointers, and did it on just 25 attempts. Seniors forward Ethan Wragge and guard Jahenns Manigat each hit five triples for 15 points apiece.
Chicago State was hitting from deep as well and kept up wiuth the Jays early on. Forwards Quinton Pippen (nephew of NBA Hall of Famer and Chicag Bulls great Scottie Pippen) and Matt Ross combined to go 7-15 from deep for 13 and 11 points, respectively, while guard Clarke Rosenburg led the the Cougars with 14 points.
However, the Cougars just didn't have enough firepower as the Jays pulled away in the second half for the 32-point victory.
Senior forward Doug McDermott led Creighton with 24 points and six rebounds, and also dished out a season-best four assists. It was a big day for McDermott, as he both passed a significant milestone and set a Creighton record in the game.
On a 3-pointer that came not even five minutes into the game, Creighton's All-American surpassed the 2500 career points mark, something only 63 college players had done before him. McDermott was also a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line, stretching his consecutive made free throws streak to 39 and breaking Booker Woodfox's school record of 36 straight. McDermott missed his first attempt against George Washington on December 1, but hasn't missed since.
With the Chicago State win in the books, Creighton finishes the nonconference slate with a 10-2 record. Now it's time to move on to the school's inaugural season in the Big East.
First up on the schedule is a New Year's Eve meeting with conference preseason favorite Marquette. To preview the game, I reached out to Brewtown Andy of SB Nation's Marquette blog AnonymousEagle.com and asked him some questions about Marquette and the Bluejays' new conference.
Q: Marquette came into the season as the most highly regarded team in the Big East, but struggled a bit going just 8-5 during nonconference play. It looks like the Golden Eagles beat a lot of bad teams (Southern, Grambling State, Hew Hampshire among others) and lost to a handful of good ones (Ohio State, Arizona State, San Diego State, Wisconsin, New Mexico). Assess the team’s performance in the nonconference.
A: Just good enough to not be completely embarrassing. Well, ok, the second half of the Ohio State game was embarrassing. But in the other four, it came down to Marquette not being able to find a way to close games out. Against Arizona State, MU was down 1 with 2:24 to play. Against SDSU, it was tied at 53 with 3:54 remaining. Wisconsin? Down 3 with 2:08 to play. New Mexico? Down 2, 4:07 to play. It's most likely a function of only having three players - Jamil Wilson, Chris Otule, and Davante Gardner - who have significant experience in big time games. More importantly, two of those players are post players and can't create their own shot.
Q: Marquette was the preseason favorite in the Big East followed by Georgetown and Creighton, with Villanova rounding out the top four. After the nonconference, how does your Big East Power Rankings look?
A: Villanova gets the top spot easily, massive chokejob against Syracuse or not. I'll follow that up with Creighton and Georgetown in that order this time. Fourth place will go to a surprising Butler squad. Something about Xavier's three losses in the Battle 4 Atlantis bothers me, and I can't honestly keep MU in the top four with those five losses, even though I like how the team is coming together.
Q: Preseason All-Big East picks Davante Gardner (First Team) and Jamil Wilson (Second Team) lead a pretty balanced attack for the Golden Eagles. What should Creighton fans expect to see from these two?
A: Creighton fans will hate Gardner the first time he records an and-1. He has a shooting touch around the basket that's rarely found in guys with his body type, as he gets shots off from ridiculous angles, but they all seem to go down somehow, contact or not. He's also really good at drawing that contact, as he's ranked #190 in the country by KenPom.com in fouls drawn per 40 minutes.
Wilson is the most frustrating player to put on a Marquette uniform in the 13 years that I've had season tickets. He has stretches where he is clearly the most dynamic athlete and basketball player on the floor. But, for whatever reason, he usually can't sustain that for a whole game. He has a tendency to disappear for stretches, but when he's on and involved, there's nothing on the court that he can't do. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee sprain five minutes into Saturday's game against Samford. While he wanted to play in the second half, head coach Buzz Williams kept him out of the game, partly due to the score at the time (16 point MU lead) and partly to protect him for the two Big East games this week.
Q: This game looks to be a contrast of styles as Creighton is one of the best offensive teams in the country, while Marquette is one of the best on the other end of the floor. The Jays excel at moving the ball and knocking down shots, and then of course they have that Doug McDermott guy as well. How do you expect the Golden Eagles to try to slow down McDermott and company?
A: Creighton is going to get a chance to shoot threes. Just as he famously preaches making the ball touch the paint on offense to get the best shot possible, Buzz Williams preaches keeping the ball out of the paint on defense. He has his players sag off of their man on defense when the ball is more than one pass away, because even if you give up a skip pass for an open three, it's a lower percentage shot than a three footer in the paint.
While this is maddening to watch on occasion, it's actually very successful over the last two seasons. Marquette has been a top 80 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) defense each of the last two years, and they're ranked #35 in the country right now. When you eventually do decide to let fly against Marquette this season, you'd better make sure it's the best shot you can get, because it's the only chance you're getting. They only allow opponents to rebound 29% of their own misses, which has them ranked #66th in the country.
Q: Gardner, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year and Marquette’s leading scorer, continues to come off the bench this year alongside Todd Mayo (the team’s third-leading scorer). What kind of a dynamic does it give the team having that kind of firepower coming off the bench?
A: It means that Marquette has to be absolutely perfect to start the second half because, as is the case with most teams, that starting five will be back on the court after intermission. It also means that hearing TV announcers talk about "Hey, Marquette's really destroying their opponent in bench scoring" is completely annoying and incredibly shallow. Marquette kind of has to do that to be able to win games.
In any case, I generally don't notice what kind of dynamic this creates for Marquette. There is usually at least one Golden Eagle sitting at the scorer's table waiting to check in, as Marquette will usually go at least nine deep. Earlier this season, I tried to do a plus/minus tracker on five man units on the floor, and I had narrowed it down to eight different groups on the floor, and had at least 10 more possibilities to sort out.
Q: Prediction time.
If I'm Buzz Williams, I'm pulling out the tape of Marquette's first ever Big East game to show the guys. In that game, a traditional power in the conference (Connecticut) came into the home arena for a newcomer to the Big East, and a sharpshooting senior forward (Steve Novak) WENT OFF for the newcomer to the league, scoring 41 points and grabbing 16 rebounds for the best performance ever by a player making his Big East debut en route to a 94-79 win.
There's no chance Buzz Williams lets his team get victimized that badly. But with a questionable Jamil Wilson, and a Marquette team that can't close close games out, I'm going to pick Creighton to win this one, 77-72.
Thanks to Andy for taking the time to answer my questions.
Tip-off for the New Year's Eve clash is set for 9 p.m. at CenturyLink Center Omaha, and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 as part of the New Year's Eve Big East marathon.