OMAHA, Neb. – Creighton put up outstanding numbers competing in the best Big East game of the season to date here last Wednesday night. The Bluejays shot 50.8 percent from the field and 51.5 percent from beyond the arc with 17 three-point baskets, and committed just nine turnovers.
Marquette won the game in overtime, 106-104, thanks to a conference record 53 points by guard Markus Howard and Sam Hauser’s three-point basket off an inbounds pass in the final 0.8 seconds of regulation that was subject to a lengthy video review before the official’s call of a good goal was upheld.
Needless to say, the Bluejays (10-6, 1-2 Big East) were disappointed at the outcome and couldn’t wait to get back on the court for their next game on Sunday at what is now called the CHI Health Center before the usual packed house of 18,000-plus. And look who’s coming to town – Villanova.
“They’re scary,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said Friday after practice at the Davis Center. “They had that game. When you’re their opponent you look at that as, they were good enough to win that game. That’s what’s scary about them. Their high-powered offense, their ability to go up and down, that’s going to test our depth.”
The Cats (12-4, 3-0), who lost here in overtime last February, are riding their two senior leaders, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, who each average more than 20 points per game in the conference while playing major minutes. In three Big East games, Paschall has rested for just a total of five minutes, and Booth has sat on the bench for eight minutes.
Wright said he usually has a plan going into the game to give his two leaders more rest, but that plan sometimes gets shredded after the opening tip, such as in Tuesday night’s game when St. John’s raced out to a 14-2 lead in the opening minutes.
“Eric and Phil playing so many minutes, we’ve got find ways to get them a break,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to be good enough defensively without them in there to not let Creighton go on a run, which they’re good at.”
Booth doesn’t mind all the playing time.
“You just take care of your body throughout the week, in the cold tub, massages, stretching, just anything you can do to keep your body fresh,” he said. “We’re fine playing minutes. We don’t really get that tired. I think we built up our conditioning in the pre-season and the summer to be able to handle playing that many minutes.”
Wright’s rotation lately has consisted of nine players. The four coming off the bench played more than 66 minutes against the Red Storm and contributed 21 points and 15 rebounds and was a collective plus-41.
Creighton also is deep, with six players who average 9.4 points or more led by sophomore guard Ty-Shon Alexander at a team-best 17.1. Creighton ranks in the top three in the nation in three-point percentage (44.2, second), field-goal percentage (51.5, third) and threes made per game (12.1, third).