Justin Patton and Greg McDermott field postgame questions following Creighton's win over Xavier, which sent Bluejays to Big East championship game for second time in four years. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
NEW YORK -- The regular season meetings do not guarantee what will happen here.
For the record, Xavier and Creighton split their series, each winning away from home. On Friday, they faced each other at Madison Square Garden with a lot more at stake: A berth in the Big East championship game against Villanova.
In a game with five ties and nine lead changes, Creighton defeated Xavier, 75-72 on a three-pointer by Marcus Foster with seven seconds remaining in regulation. The Bluejays will appear in their second championship game in their four-year conference tenure.
First five possessions:
Xavier: Three-point field goal, missed field goal, missed field goal, missed field goal, missed field goal
Creighton: Missed field goal, missed field goal, field goal, three-point field goal, missed field goal
Creighton established a 5-3 lead with 16:40 remaining in the first half. Xavier ran half court sets, whereas the Bluejays were more inclined to run their inside-out offense. After Justin Patton scored in the post, Creighton took two threes, hitting one.
First half observations: By the 12-minute timeout, Xavier owned a nine-point lead. At this juncture, the Musketeers were shooting 46 percent from the floor and 80 percent beyond the arc. Creighton, after a promising early start, managed just 27 percent against the Xavier zone. Late in the half, the Bluejays spread the floor. Xavier was a step slow on a few closeouts and Creighton capitalized from three, trimming a double-digit Xavier lead back to two possessions.
Halftime: Xavier 37, Creighton 31
Possessions: Xavier 34, Creighton 35
Offensive efficiency: Xavier 109, Creighton 89
The offensive rebounds were huge. Creighton registered only one, and trailed 39-6 at halftime in offensive rebound percentage.
Second half observations: The first four minutes belonged to Creighton. A 13-6 spurt put Greg McDermott’s club ahead by one at the 16-minute mark. The Bluejays knocked down three three-pointers in that stretch. Of greater note, they were able to get Patton involved, finishing two in the paint, as well as hitting one from downtown.
A seven-footer, Patton has the size that makes him a projected NBA lottery pick. McDermott will often start him on the high post and roll him low to receive a lob. Getting him more involved in the offense was crucial. Offensively, Creighton found the touch this half, whereas Xavier cooled off. At the under-8 media timeout, the Bluejays led by five.
J.P. Macura knocked down three triples in the stretch to put Xavier back in the lead by one with four minutes left. A missed assignment on a baseline out of bounds allowed Foster to bury a wide open three and put the Bluejays back on top. Making plays is not always an offensive thought. One must do it on defense as well, Creighton led by three with a minute to go. After a missed one and one by the Bluejays, Macura tied it with a three with fifteen seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Foster buried the go-ahead shot to punch Creighton’s ticket to the final.
Possessions: Xavier 64, Creighton 65
Offensive efficiency: Xavier 113, Creighton 115
Effective field goal percentage: Xavier 56, Creighton 67
Free throw rate: Xavier 20, Creighton 11
Offensive rebound percentage: Xavier 30, Creighton 12
Turnover rate: Xavier 19, Creighton 19
Leading scorers and effectiveness factors:
Xavier: J.P. Macura, 22 points (EF 27)
Creighton: Marcus Foster, 21 points (EF 27), Justin Patton, 21 points (EF 25)
What Xavier did well: Rebound, get to the line, shoot the ball, a number of things, but not enough for the win.
What Creighton did well: Shoot the ball in the second half and rebound better. The Bluejays shot a phenomenal 86 percent eFG mark after halftime. They also limited Xavier to four second chance points in the second half after giving up ten in the first.
NOTES: Creighton led 28-26 on points in the paint. Khyri Thomas led the Bluejays and all players with a game-high eight assists. Foster had six helpers as Creighton assisted on 48 percent of their field goals. Xavier checked in with an impressive 69 percent assist rate.
Ball control index: Xavier 1.75, Creighton 1.83
RaShid Gaston of Xavier led all rebounders with six. The perimeter nature of the game meant less trips to the line. Creighton shot 13-of-20 from distance, while Xavier was 9-of-21. The Bluejays improved to 25-8 with the win, while the Musketeers fell to 21-13.
Keys to victory: Better rebounding by Creighton in the second half and the hot shooting, especially from the perimeter. Defensively, Xavier coach Chris Mack was not disappointed, noting Creighton just hit a number of tough, contested shots.
Postgame Quotes (courtesy of ASAP Sports)