Is Creighton back? Bluejays knock down No. 13 Xavier to claim 4th overall

After one of his toughest first-half shooting performances of the season, the No.13 Xavier recovered in the second half against Creighton.

The problem was that the Bluejays also improved in the final 20 minutes and secured an 84-67 home victory on Saturday.

Xavier (17-5, 9-2 Big East) entered the game with the fifth best shooting percentage in the nation (.503), but fell after the first five minutes and shot just 38.7%. in the first half.

Arthur Kaluma scored 20 points for Creighton (13-8, 7-3) and his other four starters finished in double digits. The Bluejays made 34 of their 60 field goal attempts (56.7%) overall, shooting 60.7% in the second half and 53.1% in the first half.

“Playing Creighton at Creighton is not an easy task for anyone,” Xavier’s coach Sean Miller said. “I think they’re one of the best teams in college basketball, and definitely one of the best teams in the Big East, maybe overall, because of their defense.”

In addition to that stifling defense, Creighton’s offense had its best day of the month. Ryan Kalkbrenner scored 17 points, Baylor Scheierman had 14, Trey Alexander finished with 13 and Ryan Nembhard added 11 for the Bluejays, who avenged a 90-87 loss to Xavier on Jan. 11.

Zach Freemantle led the Musketeers with 18 points, followed by Colby Jones and Adam Kunkel with 13.

Early in the first half, Xavier called on two starters to commit their second fouls 12 seconds apart. Jack Nunge went to the bench, but Miller stayed at Freemantle.

Creighton coach Greg McDermott says Xavier’s foul issues prompted him to keep going inside the 7ft 1 Kalkbrenner against a smaller formation – even though a similar plan at Xavier earlier this month did not go as planned.

“It was the lineup that created the separation in Cincinnati,” McDermott said. “We hadn’t seen much of him before that, but (they’ve) actually played about 50% of the minutes since our game with four guards and a big one. So we were a bit better prepared for that this time.”

Miller said Kalkbrenner’s presence “separates Creighton from everyone”, adding that he is “able to patrol the basket and block shots, allowing four other players to do things”.

“Creighton has a great way to get you those tough two points,” Miller said. “I think Creighton’s defense starts with this big guy.”

Creighton went on a 10-2 run just before halftime for a 42-28 lead. The Musketeers threatened in the second half with an 11-3 run to move to 55-49 with a 3-pointer from Kunkel.

Creighton responded with his biggest offensive flurry of the game, beating Xavier 19-8 in under six minutes to take a 74-57 lead.

Creighton was ranked No. 8 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, but after starting the season 6-0, the Jays went on a six-game losing streak and have struggled to find their place ever since. But the Bluejays have now won four straight to move into the Big East’s top four.


Creighton only committed six fouls in total, three in each half.


Xavier: The Musketeers entered the game leading the nation in assists per game at 21.0. At half-time, Xavier had just six assists before finishing the game with 16.

Creighton: The win over the Musketeers improved Creighton’s home record to 10-1 and also moved the Bluejays to 6-0 in Big East home games. Creighton’s only home loss was a 63-53 loss to Nebraska on Dec. 4.


Xavier: hosts Providence on Wednesday.

Creighton: Play Georgetown on Wednesday.

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