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LINKS: Hoyas Have Back-to-Back Creighton Games

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In search of win #1, Georgetown hosts then visits the Bluejays

Creighton v Georgetown - Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images

Jumping right back in, the Georgetown Hoyas (6-16, 0-11) will resume their quest for a conference win with two games, home and away, against the Creighton Bluejays (14-8, 6-5) on Saturday (noon) and Monday (9PM). Everyone would love to see the Hoyas enjoy some success soon, but with only 8 games left, at least Georgetown and their fans will have several chances to learn some things about this roster.

What’s said has been said, and it wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination to say it. Now it’s time to root for the fine student-athletes in Blue and Gray as forcefully as possible.

Knock on wood, but Georgetown almost always plays Creighton tough, including a truly spectacular pummeling last March when it counted the most. Creighton is also a youthful team this year and defense has been a worry for Coach McDermott.

Creighton fans think they are still fighting for a potential tournament bid, while Georgetown will be fighting out of desperation.

Here are the links:

Men’s Basketball Opens Back-to-Back Games vs. Georgetown | GoCreighton

Creighton (14-8, 6-5 BIG EAST) and Georgetown (6-16, 0-11 BIG EAST) begin a rare set of back-to-back meetings on Saturday morning in Washington, D.C. Tip-off at Capital One Arena (20,600) is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central [Noon ET] ...

Creighton is 14-8 this season, including wins over No. 9 Villanova (79-59), No. 17 UConn (59-55) and No. 24 BYU (83-71). The Bluejays are 6-5 in league play, including road wins at UConn and Marquette. The Bluejays return seven lettermen but no starters from last year’s team that finished 22-9 overall, runner-up in the BIG EAST ...

Creighton has four players averaging at least 11.0 points per game, including the trio of Ryan Hawkins (12.7 ppg., 7.0 rpg.), Ryan Nembhard (11.2 ppg., 4.0 apg.) and Ryan Kalkbrenner (11.0 ppg., 6.9 rpg., 2.9 bpg.). Alex O’Connell (12.4 ppg., 5.8 rpg.) had a career-high 22 points on Jan. 15 at Xavier, then outdid himself and scored 28 points in a Jan. 19 win vs. St. John’s. More than 41 percent of Creighton’s points this season have come from freshmen, who composed much of the team’s top-10 recruiting class. Creighton averages 67.9 points per game while allowing 65.5 per game. CU shoots 44.8 percent from the floor, 30.2 percent from deep and 72.9 percent at the line. The Jays are +3.2 on the glass but have also turned the ball over an average of 14.5 times per game.

Pregame Primer: Creighton Opens Back-Half of Big East Slate... | White & Blue Review

In early January, Creighton led the Big East in field goal percentage at 47.3%. But their offense has struggled — a lot — once conference teams realized they could frustrate the Bluejays with physical play. By bullying them and grinding the pace of the game down, opponents have succeeded at goading the Jays into abandoning a lot of the core principles of their offense.

After the loss to Xavier last weekend, Greg McDermott said on his postgame radio show that his players are fighting their own instincts too often. “Human nature is to think ‘I’m going to go fix this.’ And that’s the last thing you should think,” he said. “You should think even more ball movement, more spacing, more pace, instead of putting your head down and trying to force a play to save the day.”

And after losing at Seton Hall, McDermott noted the Pirates’ physicality bothered his team. “We didn’t find a lot of open passing lanes…they took away our aggressiveness.”

Too often, faced with a defense that takes away their initial action, players respond by trying to make a play themselves. That leads to more dribbling, where an already-physical defense is ready to pounce and knock the ball away. Or it leads to forcing passes into tight windows, where the defense can get a hand on it.

Talking to the media on Monday afternoon, Trey Alexander said that McDermott had shared with the team an interesting stat: they’d only got a ball reversal (passing the ball to the opposite side of the floor, with the hope of getting the defense off-balance) on around 20% of their possessions against Seton Hall. But when they got a ball reversal, the possession ended with a made basket roughly 70% of the time.

Creighton survives late surge against Butler, 54-52 | Big East Coast Bias

Butler kept the game within reach by defense, not allowing a Creighton made field goal for around 9 minutes late in the game. While there were free throws, Butler had gone from down 8 (48-40 CU) to up one (52-51 BU) with just a minute left. The Bulldogs also held the big man Ryan Kalkbrenner to just a single point, something no one this season had been able to do until now. The recipe for success was there, but Ryan Nembhard had other plans.

If you are Creighton, you (much like Butler) try to learn from your accomplishments defensively and ignore the offensive slump. Creighton held Butler to 19 made field goals and 4 made threes, but the exact same can be said for what Butler did to Creighton. Ryan Kalkbrenner had an off-night, which happens, but players like Arthur Kaluma exceeded what his average was coming into the game to surprise CU. You had enough to keep you afloat, which given the last result against Butler, is a welcome success.

Ryan Nembhard’s layup in the final minute helps Creighton win a dogfight against Butler | White & Blue Review

Freshman wing Arthur Kaluma led Creighton with a game-high 16 points to go along with seven rebounds and two blocked shots in 25 minutes. Senior forward Ryan Hawkins added 15 on 6-of-9 shooting, and senior guard Alex O’Connell tied his career-high — set two games ago in a win at UConn — with 10 rebounds to help the Jays keep their heads above water in conference play and avoid a fourth loss in the last five games.

Creighton won for the fifth time this season when shooting below 40% from the field. They did it by overcoming an early 9-point deficit and holding Butler to 34.5% shooting overall for the game, including 4-of-17 from 3-point range.