Creighton controlled the pace of play and cruised to a 15-point win over Seton Hall in Newark, New Jersey on Jan. 9, but Saturday’s game at a sold-out pink CenturyLink Center Omaha was a different story.
Seton Hall defeated the Creighton men’s basketball team 75-65 in front of 17,924 fans dressed in pink for the Bluejays’ annual Coaches vs. Cancer Pink Out game on Saturday night.
“They controlled tempo,” coach Greg McDermott said “They didn’t want this thing to get up and down and they did a good job of picking their spots.”
Rebounding helped Seton Hall (15-6, 5-4 Big East) slow the game down and play at the speed it wanted to.
The Pirates held a 46-27 advantage in rebounds -- 17 of the offensive variety -- and scored 17 second-chance points.
The Bluejays lost the rebounding battle by one against Seton Hall on the road, but allowed only seven second-chance points.
“Last time we played [Creighton] they didn’t miss too many shots so we didn’t have a chance to rebound and on the road you have to rebound the ball,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “You have to give yourselves second shots and that was our main instance.”
Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez each finished with double-doubles to lead the Pirates. Delgado grabbed 12 rebounds and scored 13 while Rodriguez had 10 rebounds and 14 points. Ismael Sanogo also scored 12 and had eight rebounds.
Junior forward Zach Hanson led Creighton in rebounding with seven, including four offensive rebounds. No other Bluejay had more than four total rebounds.
“We ended far too many defensive possessions where we got a stop without a rebound,” McDermott said. “That’s what fuels our transition game and our transition game dictates our mojo in general.”
Seton Hall took advantage of the game at the end of the first half and the start of the second. The Pirates led by six, 33-27, with 1:53 to play in the opening 20 minutes, but used a 21-5 run that spanned halftime to take a 22-point lead.
“The end of the first half, start of the second half really defined the game,” McDermott said.
Junior guard Maurice Watson Jr. pulled the deficit back to 10 at the 4:47 mark with a three-point play, but Isaiah Whitehead made a second-chance NBA-range 3-point field goal during Seton Hall’s next possession.
Creighton (14-8, 5-4) forced Seton Hall to use the entire shot clock before launching a field-goal attempt, while Whitehead pulled down the offensive rebound to keep the possession alive.
“We were getting that initial stop and we were working hard on defense,” Watson said, “and it takes a lot out of you when they get the rebound and a get fresh 30 seconds.”
The Pirates used nearly a minute of game clock before Whitehead’s make.
Whitehead led Seton Hall with 22 points, including 4 3-pointers.
As much as Seton Hall controlled the game with rebounding, the Pirates also slowed the game down by disrupting Creighton’s normal offensive flow.
Watson organized the game in Newark and had 14 assists and scored 13.
Seton Hall’s focus to limit Watson’s ability to pick apart its defense helped the Pirates pull out the victory on Saturday.
“The big thing for us was let’s get our four-man to help, almost double-team him a little bit to try to slow him down,” Willard said. “And then we recovered nice and that helped us get the guys in the corners get to different places and that helped us.”
Creighton made 6 of 23 shots from 3-point range, two less than its average of 8.3 per game.
The Jays opened Saturday’s game with four of the first six points, but the Pirates used a 10-2 run to take a six-point lead into the under-12 media timeout.
Following the break in action senior guard James Milliken entered the game for the first time and made two 3-pointers to cut the lead back to two.
Milliken finished the night with a season-high 21 points and four 3-point field goals.
The Siler City, North Carolina native helped the Jays bench total 34 points, compared to the Pirates’ nine.
Milliken started the majority of Big East games last season. He now helps in different capacity from coming off the bench.
“Coach always tells me to be aggressive,” Milliken said, “but mainly just more cutting and being able to watch the game for the starting five minutes or so and seeing how our offense is and then just coming in and creating energy on both ends of the floor.”
McDermott noted that not many things went right for the Bluejays on Saturday night, but Milliken’s play helped keep the game within reach.
“Certainly James gave us a spark off the bench, if there’s any silver lining in tonight I think that’s it,” McDermott said. “We’ve been waiting for him to get back to the level that I think he’s capable of, and he did that tonight.”
An additional silver lining may have been what took place off the court. According to Creighton Athletics, Creighton raised $16,527.90 as part of its jersey auction as part of Saturday’s Pink Out festivities.
The Bluejays wore white warm-up and game jerseys with pink lettering and trim.
“A lot of our guys just had a very average effort tonight,” McDermott said. “There wasn’t a lot of emotion in their face and their body language wasn’t great which is hard to believe with a crowd like we had -- the environment that we had tonight -- but for whatever reason we could never get that mojo.”
Creighton will look to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season as it opens the second-half of the conference schedule this week.
The Bluejays travel to Villanova, Pennsylvania to face the league-leading Wildcats on Wednesday night.