Rushed Reactions: Creighton 75, Xavier 72

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 10th, 2017

RTC’s Justin Kundrat (@justinkundrat) is providing on-site coverage of the Big East Tournament all week long.

Marcus Foster’s Big Shot Carried Creighton to the Finals (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Consistent play from Justin Patton is a major determinant of Creighton’s postseason success. He’s gotten some flak lately for inconsistent scoring and sub-par defense but the numbers don’t lie. With the 7’0″ freshman on the floor, Creighton allows just 0.95 points per possession — when he’s on the bench, this number stands at 1.06. For a 70-possession game, this amounts to a difference of seven points allowed per game. Moreover, Patton’s impact on the offensive end as a catch-and-finish rim threat and capable three-point shooter have been long admired by scouts, and Friday night’s output was a perfect showcase: Patton poured in a highly efficient 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
  2. Xavier’s inexperience at the point guard position is overblown. Obviously, the injury to Edmond Sumner does more harm than good, but freshman Quentin Goodin has come a long way in averaging 7.4 points and 5.2 assists per game in his absence. There are many similarities to their games, notably the ability to channel well-timed passes to the post and a tendency to attack the basket, making Goodin an ideal substitute. As such, while the freshman isn’t nearly the same finisher as his counterpart, his recent bout of confidence has given Chris Mack‘s four-out perimeter offense much more room to run with results following.
  3. Tonight marked a revival of two struggling offenses. Xavier’s turnaround got underway earlier this week after a string of poor performances marked by questionable shot selection and decision-making. Meanwhile, Creighton broke a three-game skid of sub-32 percent three-point shooting, an unusual slump for a team that is averaging 40 percent on the season. Needless to say, confidence plays a vital role in offensive efficiency and both teams are turning things around at the right time.

Star of the Game. Marcus Foster may have hit the game-winning three tonight, but Justin Patton‘s impact was unparalleled.He was highly efficient around the basket, converting on pick-and-rolls and post-ups, skillfully exploiting Xavier’s below average interior defense. His two performances versus Villanova this season were polar opposites, so it remains to be seen whether we will see the 18-point, eight-rebound version of Patton or the four-point, five-rebound one.

Quotable.

  • Marcus Foster on his game-winning shot: “I just stood by Coach Mac and he said let’s just play… so I just got into my routine and just took a big shot for my team.”
  • “We were able to collapse the defense versus some of the switches with their bigs… and Justin [Patton] slipped out of some early, got a few baskets at the rim, and all of a sudden your defensive mindset changes because you’re giving up an easy two, and they’re late getting to some shooters” — Greg McDermott, reflecting on his team’s offensive strategy.
  • Chris Mack on Creighton’s lights-out performance: “I thought a lot of their threes were really contested looks… they shot the lights out.”
  • Mack, on his team’s NCAA Tournament aspirations: “I don’t think there’s any doubt.”

Sights & Sounds. Some of the Seton Hall/Villanova crowd filtered out for the nightcap, but the turnout and noise levels remained strong enough to result in the classic Big East Tournament energy level. In particular, it’s remarkable how well Creighton’s fan base travels — it often felt like a home game for the Bluejays (although that might be because I was sitting next to their student section).

What’s Next? Creighton, the conference’s #6 seed, will take on Villanova in the Big East championship on Saturday night. It marks the Bluejays’ second appearance in the conference finals since joining the Big East four years ago. Mack’s group will head home, but he certainly can’t be disappointed with his team’s performance at MSG this week.

Justin Kundrat (122 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com


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