The Bluejays’ two seniors rose to the occasion on their special day as the Creighton men’s basketball team picked up its ninth win in league play.
Seniors Geoffrey Groselle and James Milliken combined for 41 points and the Bluejays defeated St. John’s 100-59 on Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Center Omaha for their largest win on senior day since 1961.
“I’m proud of these two guys,” coach Greg McDermott said. “You only get one senior day and to have them both play at a high level today the way that they did and set the tone for the game from the onset was really good to see.”
Sunday’s victory also marked McDermott’s 139th at Creighton, moving him into third place on the program’s all-time win list.
Groselle recorded his third double-double of the season with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Milliken scored 19 points, including making 4 of 5 shots from 3-point range.
“James and I talked before the game and the only 40-point games in CenturyLink’s history have been on senior night and we decided we weren’t going to be able to get 40 individually so we said ‘we have to get 40 as a team ’ (me and him), and we went out there and did that today,” Groselle said. “My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball. James was hot early.”
Creighton’s three 40-point senior night individual performances were accomplished by a senior, junior and sophomore. Doug McDermott scored 45 points in his final game at home as a Bluejay and 41 on senior night as a junior, while Cavel Witter totaled 42 points as a sophomore during Creighton’s final home game in 2008.
Groselle started the game with eight of the Bluejays’ first 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting as Creighton raced out to a 10-6 lead.
Milliken extended the advantage to six, 20-14, with Creighton’s first 3-point field goal of the game eight minutes into the contest. The Bluejays went nearly 31 minutes without a 3-pointer against Marquette on Wednesday.
Christian Jones cut the lead back to four at 22-18 before Creighton went on a shooting streak.
The Bluejays attempted eight consecutive 3-pointers and made seven to build a 46-20 lead.
“When we’re knocking down shots our game is flowing, and I feel like Geoff established that early presence with scoring down there – dominating -- and we just set our feet and knocked down the shots,” Milliken said.
Groselle converted a layup with less than 30 seconds to play in the first half for Creighton’s first field goal from inside 3-point territory in more than 10 minutes and gave the Bluejays a 53-24 lead at the half.
Milliken made four 3s in the first half and combined with Groselle for 26 points.
“We focused on moving the basketball -- passing and cutting -- and I feel like it opened up a lot of opportunities for us because we got Geoff going early and then they starting collapsing on Geoff and that’s when I got my open shots,” Milliken said. “Maurice did a great job of finding us and our guards did a great job of finding the post men as well.”
The Bluejays made 8 of 12 3-point shots in the first half after making only three total in 21 attempts during their last game.
St. John’s (8-22, 1-16 Big East) missed all five of its 3-point attempts in the first half.
Creighton (18-11, 9-7) also made 10 of 15 from inside the arc and Groselle went 5 of 5 from the field.
“We established inside play early and then the 3s came later,” Groselle said. “I wish we would have spread out these 3s to last game, but we’re just going to move forward and keep this offensive game flowing.”
The Bluejays finished the game 8 of 19 from 3-point territory for a 42.1 percent performance, their highest since making 50 percent (13 of 26) on Jan. 17 at DePaul.
Milliken opened the second half with the first five Creighton points before the Bluejays turned to its entire team in the second half.
Twelve players played at least four minutes and all but one scored as no player had more than eight points in Creighton’s 47-point second half.
Junior guard Malik Albert added the final touches to the 41-point victory with an alley-oop dunk to put the Jays at an even 100 points.
Albert finished Sunday two minutes shy of his career-high with 18. He scored eight points, all in the second half, including two dunks and an acrobatic reverse layup.
“Malik’s played a little bit more because he’s practiced better; it’s pretty simple,” McDermott said. “He’s been more active defensively in practice, offensively he’s starting to get it a little bit more and when he’s aggressive you can see what he’s capable of.”
Jones led St. John’s with 17 points on 8 of 12 shooting.
The Bluejays hit the road for their final two regular season games.
Creighton plays at Providence (20-9, 8-8) on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. The Jays held the Friars to 30 percent shooting, 17 percent from beyond the arc and 50 points, but Providence held Creighton to 26 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range and picked up a road victory with a buzzer-beating shot.
”We know that we’re capable of taking away their rhythm defensively and we’re going to have to try and do that, make some adjustments and then try to find out what went wrong offensively and hopefully we can execute a little bit better and figure out a way to score one more point on Wednesday night,” McDermott said.
Creighton closes its season at No. 5 Xavier (25-4, 13-4) on Saturday.
After winning only four Big East games last season, Sunday’s game marked the ninth conference victory of the season and guarantees the Bluejays of at least a .500 finish in league play.
“It means a lot, but our work isn’t done yet,” Groselle said. “Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make the NCAA Tournament and that’s still our goal to this day; we’re not there and we need to get there.”