Photo By: Trent Grayson (Mr_Kentucky24)
Article By; Parker Fields
If I told you before the season started that heading into this matchup one team would be 13-3 and ranked #12 in the country you would expect it's Creighton. Creighton started off this season 6-0 and were ranked as a top 10 team in the country. Everything was clicking for them and they were excecuting at an extremely high level. Since then it has not been a very fun stretch. Creighton went on to lose six games in a row after there 6-0 start and was looking like they would have a tough time going into Big East play. They however, have bounced back a bit winning three of their last four games and bring their record to 9-7 (3-2 in Big East). Creighton coming in ranks 3rd in the Big East in Defensive rating, and 5th in Offensive Rating. Creighton is led by Junior Center Ryan Kalkbrenner who's averaging 14.8 ppg and 6.8 rpg.
Xavier has been one of the biggest surprises in the country this season. The Musketeers have been simply dominant over the last month and a half of the season. Since losing to Gonzaga on November 27th Xavier is on a 9 game winning streak, and 5-0 to begin Conference play. Xavier's offense has been one of the best in the country this year ranking first in the Big East in Scoring and ninth in the country. Xavier's flaw has been their defense this season which has been improving as of late. Xavier is led by senior guard Souley Boum, who's averaging 17.2 ppg and 4.7 apg.
These are two balanced teams who each have five double digit scorers a piece and this is looking like it should be a Big East high scoring showdown.
This game started fast, and when I say fast, I mean fast. After just 2 minutes, Creighton was leading Xavier 10-8. Ryan Nembhard got off to a fast start for Creighton scoring five points and dishing out an assist in those first two minutes of the game. From there, the scoring did not stop and we had Xavier leading Creighton 16-14 just five minutes into the game. At that point, we knew we were in for a shootout in this one. In those early minutes Xavier was led by Senior Forward Zach Freemantle who had the first five points of the game for Xavier. Both of these teams could not figure out one another's motion offenses and it was obvious early. After that first five minutes were up, it seemed as if both teams had started to figure out how to guard one another just a bit. The scoring slowed down a little, and the percentages began to drop. Once the pace slowed down Creighton started to play through their big man Ryan Kalkbrenner. Kalkbrenner was feasting on the block and forced Xavier to adjust by sending a double team. The scoring in this one began to pick up again with about six minutes left in the half. This is when the superstar in his role, Jerome Hunter started cooking. We all know Jerome's energy is electric, but in this six minute span Jerome Hunter had eight huge points and kept Xavier alive in the game when it seemed Creighton could start pulling away.
Overall, this was a high scoring, electric first half of basketball. Creighton was led by their star Ryan Kalkbrenner with eleven points on 4/5 shooting from the field. Xavier was led by Jerome Hunter with ten huge points off the bench.
Everything was pointing to this being an electric second half of basketball on our hands.
I'll start off with a spoiler, this half didn't dissapoint. This half was even more exciting than the first.
To get things started it was the Baylor Scheierman show, scoring eleven points in the first six minutes of this half. Xavier had no answer for him early, as Coach Mcdermott of Creighton was drawing up creative concepts to get him free'd up for open looks early and often. Xavier did adjust however, being more physical with him and making it tougher for him to get open. During this time, Xavier stayed a float and was only down by five due to Souley Boum and his ability to score and create for others. Boum had six points and a couple of nice dimes during this span leading to a majority of Xavier's offense. Creighton was holding onto their miniscule lead until 7:37 left to play in the game when Xavier took their first lead of the second half. From there Xavier went on a 7-0 run courtesy of Colby Jones and took a 80-73 lead with 5:17 left in the game. Creighton continued to fight however, with three straight free throws to pull them within four with four minutes remaining. From here, the teams traded a few baskets, before Ryan Nembhard scored on a jumper with 23 seconds left pull Creighton within 2. Then, Creighton did the impossible and forced a turnover. Creighton had come back and were down 2 with 23 seconds left and the ball. Creighton however did not capitalize and turned the ball over. Xavier then converted on their free throws, and won this game 90-87.
We witnessed a great game between two well coached teams who had a lot to play for.
Xavier was led by Souley Boum with 26 points and 8 assists. Boum was the X-Factor in this game and Creighton had no answer for him.
Creighton was led by Baylor Scheierman with 25 points, and four three pointers made.
As a team Creighton shot 50% from the field and 44% from three. Xavier shot 50% from the field and 42% from three.
Xavier seperated themselves with 15 Offensive rebounds to just 6 from Creighton.
Xavier (14-3) will now host Marquette at 12:00 E.T. on Saturday.
Creighton (9-8) will host Providence on Saturday at 2:00 E.T.