By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
NEWARK, NJ -- The non-conference record brought a 10-2 mark with setbacks at the hands of Baylor and Gonzaga, good enough for a No. 25 ranking nationally.
Creighton had the non-league slate in the rear view mirror, their first Big East contest; against 23rd-ranked Seton Hall at the Prudential Center to open the Bluejays' fifth season in Big East play, was an entirely different animal.
On an evening where the mercury refused to hit 20 degrees outside, the heat was on full blast on the hardwood, with Seton Hall providing a good deal of that in a 90-84 come-from-behind victory, handing Creighton their third loss of the season.
“It was a great college game,” McDermott said following the contest. “I thought their big four (Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, Myles Powell and Desi Rodriguez) played well, but their role players also stepped up."
Besides dealing with the Pirates' big four, the Bluejays' biggest task was weathering runs. Creighton would build a lead threatening to open things up, but each time, the Pirates responded.
“I thought our defense did a better job of forcing them to shoot jump shots the second half,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “The first half, they were getting layups on us and that can be kind of deflating.”
Ironically, getting jump shots was fine with McDermott, except they failed to fire. Creighton shot 48 percent from the floor for the game, but were only 5-of-25 from long range. Khyri Thomas, a 15-point per game scorer, came in to the game shooting 50 percent from the field, 41 percent from three. The junior guard finished with 13 points, going 5-of-17 from the floor and just 1-of-7 from deep.
“We had good shots,” McDermott said. “We didn’t shoot it well. There will be nights you do not shoot well, but for us to shoot like that from long range and still be in the game says a lot.”
Entering the home stretch Creighton was right there. Delgado, again, did what seniors do, especially seniors rebounding with unmatched tenacity. His putback with just under six minutes to go gave the Pirates the lead, then secured a rebound on the next possession. The third time down, he was fouled and made both shots.
“I thought Toby (Hegner) did a good job playing Delgado and making him work for everything," said McDermott. "When we had to go small, Delgado really hurt us.”
In the end, though McDermott will study this game, making corrections on what went wrong. The Bluejays enjoyed a 53-42 halftime lead, only to be outscored by 17 in the final 20 minutes.
“We got our transition game going the first half,” he said. “The second half we couldn’t get out and run, because it’s hard to run taking the ball out of the net.”
McDermott also questioned his own decision to go to a 1-3-1 zone late. Switching from man to zone threw the Pirates a little off balance.
“That is something I should have done earlier,” he lamented.
Besides assessing his own club, McDermott was impressed with the Hall.
“I am ready for some of those kids to graduate,” he quipped. “I think I’ll go to their graduation as a matter of fact. Actually, I was impressed with how they never panicked. We jumped them early in the game and early second half, and they stayed together.”
Disappointed by having a possible road win slip away, McDermott could only philosophize, noting, “we lost to three top 25 teams this year. That’s what they do they make adjustments and that’s a reason they are ranked.”