Maybe it was too soon to write off Creighton.
Many did it after Creighton gave up 102 points to Marquette in Omaha last weekend. I did it after the Bluejays were smoked by Georgetown last Wednesday night. It was hard not to. The Bluejays had lost their engine – Mo Watson Jr., an all-american candidate – to a torn ACL and proceeded to get run out of the gym in two games they otherwise would have no business losing.
Saturday’s win over DePaul didn’t do much to change that sentiment.
Tuesday’s win at No. 16 Butler?
Justin Patton scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, adding seven boards and a pair of blocks, as No. 22 Creighton went into Hinkle Fieldhouse and beat the Bulldogs, 76-67. Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas both added 15 points for the Jays, who shot 13-for-21 from three in the win.
The story of the game, however, were Watson’s replacements. Greg McDermott scrapped the idea of using senior Isaiah Zierdan at the point guard spot and, instead, turned the keys over to freshman Davion Mintz and walk-on Tyler Clement, and they were both good. Mintz had eight points and three assists without committing a turnover, hitting a pair of big threes early in the second half to help push Creighton’s lead out to double-figure.
But it was Clement that really availed himself. He looked overwhelmed at Georgetown, like he wasn’t ready to handle the responsibility that came with running this show. Who could blame him? On Tuesday, however, you never would’ve guessed that he entered the season as the third-string, emergency point guard, the guy whose job was mostly to run the offense at the end of blowout wins.
He handed out six assists, including a pair of beautiful pick-and-roll dimes to Patton, but more importantly, he was able to get the Bluejays into their offense. Sometimes that required leading the break, sometimes all it took was him getting the ball over half court and initiating the set that McDermott called.
If there is anything that McDermott’s teams have developed a reputation for, it’s been their execution in the half court. Creighton is always going to be able to get good looks on the offensive end of the floor because of it. What we saw on Tuesday was less reliance on a point guard to make things happen and more crisply-run offensive sets. Lots of movement, lots of motion, plenty of screens to get Patton touches in the paint.
The fact that Creighton can do that takes some of the pressure off of the point guard spot.
But this group still needed a presence out there, some to take charge, pull the ball out, call a play.
Mintz and Clement were those guys on Tuesday.
And as a result, there’s reason to be hopeful that Creighton’s dream season is not a lost cause.