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CAN’T BUY A BUCKET (HAT): Creighton Handles Hoyas, 63-53

”One team passes, the other team doesn’t.”  -CBS Sports Network’s Chris Walker

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Back home after a disappointing trip to the city this past weekend, your Georgetown Hoyas (6-17, 1-11) dropped to the Creighton Bluejays (14-8, 8-3) this evening, 63-53. If one can describe a loss as “matter-of-fact,” that is how the game felt. At least it was over quickly — the broadcast ran 1 hour 49 minutes, so astonishingly brisk that I had to double-check the clock. Tonight’s installment was not particularly ugly relative to other performances, and there was no late-game collapse or surrender.

In seasons where winning has not been so absent, “not-so-ugly” would probably have been shrugged off as a generic disorganized effort and mediocre shooting night that led to an understandable victory for the team with better balanced outside shooting. At least the students got Jack the Bulldog bucket hats for their time and attendance! (Note: This is not snark. I like them and want one, even if it would look slightly silly.)

The Hoyas had fallen to the Red Storm by a single basket over the weekend, who had in turn lost to this evening’s opponent - Creighton - by nearly 30 in the middle of last week. By the transitive property, one might have reasonably assumed that this was going to be ugly.

The Bluejays have five whole players that average double digits, and such a diversified & flexible threat was always going to deeply challenge the Georgetown defense. The positive news before the game was the fact that Jay Heath was expected to make his return after being out for several weeks when surgery was needed to repair a hand injury.

The teams combined for zero points on the first seven collective possessions, before Creighton’s Kalkbrenner finally hit a three-pointer and Jordan Riley put the Hoyas on the board soon after.

Kaluma and Nembhard added early buckets as well. Heath made his first appearance on the court in eight (or nine?) games coming out of the U16, and the transition back to the court seemed as smooth as his shot when he knocked down a jumper.

Georgetown could not get another good look — or any good luck — on the offensive end. While the Bluejays were not exactly firing on all cylinders, the visitors still took a 14-6 into the next commercial break. Wayne Bristol Jr. hit a jumper and the Hoyas forced a turnover, which allowed Heath to hit again from beyond the arc after a quick transition to their offensive set. Layups from Heath and Qudus Wahab capped a 9-0 run and gave the Hoyas their first lead, 15-14.

It would have been important for Georgetown to capitalize & convert while Creighton was missing most of their outside shots and was having trouble settling into an effective defensive scheme. The Hoyas stripped it away from Kalkbrenner with Akok scooping up the loose ball, and while Riley missed his jumper (may have been fouled while doing so), he hustled back for an aggressive block at the other end. Unfortunately, the Hoyas were unable to score to extend their lead.

The Bluejays found their groove and scored 11 straight before Bryson Mozone ended the lengthy drought. That basket was a mere blip though, with Scheierman making one from Clarendon and Kalkbrenner getting a putback layup to extend the Creighton advantage into double digits.

At halftime, Georgetown trailed 35-21. (It would have been a 16-point hole if Kaluma hadn’t missed a wide-open transition layup at the buzzer.)

After a quiet and cold-shooting first half, Primo Spears broke through early in the second with a driving layup. Brandon Murray followed soon after with his first bucket of the game.

Riley forced another turnover, but what would have been a beautiful transition dunk for the Hoyas was blocked at the rim by Kalkbrenner. The elevated pace continued, though neither team was able to use it to significant advantage.

Scheierman was called for a block when he got in Wahab’s path to the basket; as the headbanded Bluejay flopped to the court, the Georgetown big man barely seemed to lose momentum as he rolled the ball into the hoop (then made the free throw). Georgetown trailed 40-30 heading into the U16. A pair of foul shots from Murray and a layup from Wahab, paired with some fortuitous misses from the Bluejays, briefly pulled the Hoyas back into a two possession game.

At the next break, preceded by a transition three from Murray made possible by a forced steal, it was 44-37. As play resumed, Akok moved over to the 5 to cover Kalkbrenner. While Akok couldn’t prevent the dunk, he answered with one of his own and then forced his man into a travel on the next possession, vindicating those who had called for this offensive look throughout the season.

Another excellent defensive assignment execution from Akok forced a turnover, and the ensuing tenacious offensive possession ended with a short teardrop hook from Mozone, assisted by Spears.

Trey Alexander was able to make Georgetown pay by intercepting a dangerous inside-out pass and taking it to the other end for a layup. Spears got those back by knocking down a contested step-back jumper, making it 48-43. That was the closest it would be. Two consecutive baskets from Alexander put the Hoyas back down double digits, and Nembhard’s triple extended the lead to 56-43.

Creighton entered a 4+ minute period during which they didn’t manage to score, but baskets from Spears and Murray still amounted to little more than treading water. With just under a minute remaining, the Bluejays were ahead 58-49.

A series of foul shots from Creighton and a pair of buckets from the Hoyas were merely ceremonial; the outcome had been decided.

Next up for Georgetown, #24 UCONN comes to town. That one is set to tip off this coming Saturday, 2/4, at Noon and will be airing on FS1.