MUSKIES SUCCUMB AT CREIGHTON!
Andy Mac Williams,
Strange stuff happens on D-1 road trips especially in a high major conference like the BIG EAST. Xavier's quick 2 hour plus charter jet flight to Omaha Saturday devolved into a 12 hour test of endurance for the travelling party including an unexpected stop in Grand Island, Nebraska and late night two hour bus ride to Omaha. Xavier at Creighton was scheduled for a 12 noon CST Tip to accommodate FOX TV. The schedule was scrambled and disrupted. CU coach Greg McDermott muddied the waters further by switching gears after a nasty home loss to St Johns(83-67). He decided to ground his "LET IT FLY" three ball offense-concentrate on patient post-up basketball and actually play focused physical trapping zone defense. The fatigued Muskies struggled to score and failed to get stops in an ugly 76-54 loss.
X is now solo 10th in the 10 team BIG EAST(3-7) with a mid-week bye-a 5 game losing streak and the next chance for redemption Saturday Night at Cintas against De Paul(8PM-FS1). The Muskies slip below .500 at 11-12 with a 1-6 road record including 1-4 in the BIG EAST.
On paper X seemingly had a huge advantage in the paint, but CU outscored XU 36-26 inside. Creighton also outscored the Muskies at the FT line(13-13 CU, 5-7 XU). The teams broke even in made 3's 7-7. Here's the killer! CU hit 21-33 twos-65% while X couldn't solve the packed in zone going 14-23 around the rim.
Give Mc Dermott credit for reinventing his approach in 3 days. The Muskies actually moved the ball crisply in the first half with long possessions and 9 assists on 10 FGs. 10 turnovers before half time led to empty trips galore. CU trapped the XU guards hard and the officials just let them do it? X coughed up the ball repeatedly.
Creighton usually underuses talented 6-9 post Martin Krampelj. Not this day(23 points- on 8-11 FGs and 7-7 FTs). Xavier faded late in the first half and trailed 41-26 at the break. The last defensive stand gave me hope though. CU owned the final possession and X stayed solid. Tyrique Jones switched perfectly off a high ball screen on a CU guard and blocked a lay-up try at the buzzer. There was legitimate hope!
Krampelj got into early 2nd half foul trouble-PG Marcus Zegarnowski jammed his hand and was limited. X approached bonus FT time very early. The Muskies surged and ran and cut the Creighton lead from +19 to +8 with about 10 minutes left.
Then the scoring draught set in. Birthday boy Elias Harden had two wide open corner three looks to cut the CU lead to 5 points. Corner threes are the highest % three spots on the floor because they are almost always open step-in catch and shoot tries. Elias made some nice plays earlier, but he bricked both shots.
X stopped attacking the rim-did not get into the bonus and failed to foul Krampelj out of the game. There was a chance to win or at least make CU tighten up. No dice!! Krampelj the Solvenian is a fine story-overcoming 3 ACL surgeries-mastering English etc, but I really hated his repeated muscle flexing. Ideally, Xavier remembers his act when Creighton rolls into Cintas a week from Wednesday.
Obviously, Xavier's in deep doodoo re an NCAA bid. IMHO they need to be 9-9 heading into the BIG EAST Tourney at MSG. Two wins in NYC might get them in then. At 8-10 it might take 3 wins including the Wednesday Play-In Game. The automatic berth with a thin roster meaning either 3 wins in 3 days or 4 in 4 would seem an extreme long shot. Xavier won 4 in 4 in 2004 and 4 in 4 in 2006 for Hail Mary NCAA at large bids out of the A-10.
The BIG EAST is a tougher different kettle of fish. 8 regular season games remain with at least one more in NYC. Nobodies' giving up. De Paul and Creighton are certainly very beatable at Cintas. Get that done and we'll all feel better.