mbb recap

Krampelj and the team get ready for an early season matchup in a packed CHI Health Center Omaha.

With last week’s NIT loss to TCU, men’s basketball concluded a season that failed to meet the expectations of some and exceeded those of others.

The Bluejays finished the season at 20-15 and third in the Big East with a conference record of 9-9. A five-game win streak to close the season put them within striking distance of March Madness, but a first round Big East Tournament loss to Xavier sent them instead to the National Invitation Tournament.

The Bluejays advanced to the quarterfinals with convincing home wins over Loyola Chicago and Memphis before falling to TCU in Fort Worth.

While projected to finish ninth in the Big East, the Jays finished third, notching impressive wins at Georgetown, then No. 16 ranked Clemson and tenth ranked Marquette.

Several players also earned conference honors. Sophomore guard Ty-Shon Alexander and junior forward Martin Krampelj were awarded Honorable Mention All-Big East, and freshman guard Marcus Zegarowski was named to the Big East All-Freshman Team.

A young Creighton team saw many underclassmen step into productive roles. In his first year at Creighton, Zegarowski was a steady contributor and was given the chance to start after the midseason injury of sophomore guard and forward Damien Jefferson, and held on to that spot the rest of the year. The Massachusetts native averaged 10.4 points per game, including shooting 45.3 percent from behind the arc.

Alexander led the team in points and steals per game with 16.2 and 1.2 respectively, marking significant improvement from his 5.5 points per game average last season. This year, Alexander notched eight 20-plus point games and an impressive 36-point performance to win the Cayman Islands Classic against Clemson. At the end of the regular season, he was also named an All-District VI selection by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

Ballock also found success in his second year for the Bluejays, playing all 35 games. He averaged 11.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, including a 39-point performance against DePaul, where he tied the Big East record and set a school record with 11 3-pointers. He also set an NCAA single game record for 3-point percentage with at least 12 attempts, shooting 11-2 from three.

After the game, Krampelj praised Ballock’s work ethic and performance. “Mitch deserves every one of them man, he’s the guy shooting that ball in the gym all day long. I come to practice still dressed up he’s already shooting. I’m going through treatments, he’s still shooting. What he did tonight, it definitely gives us a lift.”

One of the biggest stories coming into the 2018-19 season was Krampelj’s return to the court.

Midway through his sophomore season, Krampelj tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, sidelining him for the rest of the year.

After an offseason spent in recovery, Krampelj returned for an impactful junior season, averaging 13.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Krampelj was also a defensive force for the Bluejays, tallying a career high of 29 blocks and 38 steals and leading the team in blocks and rebounds.

After the team’s upset victory against tenth ranked Marquette, McDermott praised Krampelj for his skills on defense. “I think Martin is one of the best in the country on ball screens to be able to get out there and move his feet and have active hands and also not foul.”

Krampelj is not certain to return for his senior season, leaving the possible need for another Bluejay to step it up in the paint next season.

Freshman forward Christian Bishop saw success relieving Krampelj off the bench, including a 10-point performance against TCU.

The team loses seniors Kaleb Joseph and Connor Cashaw, both guards.

Redshirting for a season after two years at Syracuse, Joseph averaged 4.3 points and 13.3 minutes per game in his final two

seasons of eligibility at Creighton.

Cashaw played one year with the Bluejays as a graduate transfer from Rice University, where he averaged 2.1 points and 11.2 minutes per game.

McDermott praised Cashaw and Joseph’s roles as seniors on a young squad. “I’m so proud for what they stand for, I’m proud that they stuck with this young group and helped mentor this young group during some tough times this season.”

With plenty of young talent, Creighton returns next season with most of their core team intact. According to Creighton Athletics, 97.7 percent of the team’s starts and 88 percent of their points will return next season.

After their season-ending loss to TCU, McDermott expressed hope for the future of this young team.

“I like the core group that we have coming back, I think they showed some signs of what we can become in the future and, you know, hopefully we can add a couple pieces and really build on some of the good things that happened late this season.”

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