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Creighton gets 35 from Doug McDermott in a win over Xavier

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No Grant Gibbs?

No problem.

Playing their first game without the sixth-year senior guard thanks to a dislocated kneecap he suffered in a win over DePaul didn’t slow Creighton down at all.

The Bluejays got a combined 37 points and 14 assists from Devin Brooks, Austin Chatman and Jahenns Manigat as they overcame a 12-0 start by Xavier to beat the Musketeers, 95-89, on Sunday afternoon.

Chris Mack’s club entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning eight straight games and starting out Big East play 3-0. But the Muskies ran into a Creighton buzzsaw, as the Bluejays sharpshooting — they went 14-for-28 from the floor — was too much to handle. Creighton routinely packs more than 17,000 people into the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, and when the Bluejays get rolling, that place gets loud. It’s not an easy place to get a win even when you hit four thees in the first two minutes of the game.

Xavier’s going to be fine, especially now that Semaj Christon is back to playing like an all-american.

What was more impressive here was Creighton. Doug McDermott is an awesome scorer. We all know that, and the 35 points, seven boards and three assists that he posted on Sunday will do nothing to dissuade that notion. But what makes Creighton so hard to defend is when they also run Ethan Wragge out there. Wragge is a big, 6-foot-8 forward that has enough strength to throw his weight around in the post. But he also happens to be one of the best three-point shooters in the country. He made five of them on Sunday, including three straight 25-footers early in the second half that blew the game open.

When he’s on the floor at the same time as McDermott, it spreads out the defense and creates driving lanes. But it also basically ensures that one of the two will get an open look from beyond the arc on every single possession. Big men aren’t accustomed to playing defense 30 feet away from the basket. They aren’t used to being unable to leave their man, even for a split second. Most guards are used to the idea of having to get a hand in a shooter’s face that far away from the rim. They deal with it every day.

Big men aren’t used to it, and that’s how you have to guard Wragge and McDermott on the perimeter.

It’s also why I’m looking forward to Creighton’s visit to Villanova next Monday. The Wildcats actually have big men that can guard on the perimeter and hold their on in the post against McDermott. Will having the best player in the conference be enough to allow Creighton to beat the best team in the league and the only team in the league that they won’t have a matchup advantage?

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

Lehigh Virginia Basketball
AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

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The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org