Greg McDermott

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.


Hot-shooting No. 3 Villanova takes down Creighton 83-58

Josh Hart, Jordan Pric
AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson
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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Kris Jenkins scored 22 points, Jalen Brunson had 16 and No. 3 Villanova rolled past Creighton 83-58 on Wednesday night.

Josh Hart added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats (19-3, 9-1 Big East), who have won 11 of 12. With senior center Daniel Ochefu missing his second straight game with a concussion, Villanova relied on its pinpoint outside shooting. The Wildcats shot 16 for 29 (55 percent) from 3-point range with Brunson and Jenkins each shooting 4 for 6.

On the hunt for their third straight Big East title, Villanova remained a game up on Xavier for first place.

Playing just outside his native Philadelphia, Maurice Watson Jr. led Creighton (14-9, 5-5) with 16 points and five assists. The Bluejays have lost three straight for the first time this season.

The 16 3s were the most Creighton has ever given up and the most Villanova has made this season.

Creighton, the league’s top shooting team, attempted 25 3-pointers but only made eight against the Wildcats, who own the conference’s top-ranked defense.

After Creighton opened a four-point lead midway through the first half on consecutive 3-pointers from Watson and Toby Hegner, Villanova reeled off the next 10 points to take the lead for good. The Wildcats closed the half on a 13-4 run to go up 45-32. The spurt was highlighted by five points apiece from Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges.

The Wildcats went ahead 60-38 with 15 minutes left. They led by as many as 31 points and closed the game on a 63-34 run.

Booth added 10 points for Villanova and Ryan Arcidiacono and Bridges chipped in nine apiece.

Creighton center Geoffrey Groselle didn’t start because of an ankle injury but came off the bench and scored six points.


Creighton: The Bluejays have lost four straight to Villanova but their last win over the Wildcats was a memorable one as they eclipsed 100 points in a 101-80 triumph on Feb. 16, 2014. . Creighton dropped to 22-131 all-time against nationally ranked opponents, including a 1-5 mark this season. The Bluejays have never beaten a team ranked in the top three.

Villanova: The Wildcats have won 37 straight games at the Pavilion, its campus gym. . Villanova made all 12 of its free throws in the first half. . Villanova’s all-time leading scorer, Kerry Kittles, was sitting courtside for the game.


Creighton: Hosts DePaul on Saturday

Villanova: Visits No. 11 Providence on Saturday

This version corrects that the 16 3s were the most Villanova made this season.

Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton take care of No. 18 Butler

Creighton coach Greg McDermott reacts to a call by an official during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Nebraska in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
AP Photo/Nati Harnik
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With No. 4 Villanova still the class of the Big East, three teams are tied for second in the conference with matching 5-2 league records. No. 5 Xavier and Georgetown were both fancied as contenders before the season began, so their presence in that glut comes as no surprise (even with the Hoyas’ issues in non-conference play). The third team with a 5-2 record: the Creighton Bluejays, who Saturday night took care of No. 18 Butler 72-64 in Omaha.

Greg McDermott’s team had incredibly bad luck in tight games a season ago, with nine of their losses coming by five points or less. But their fortunes have changed for the better in 2015-16, and a big reason why is the presence of redshirt junior point guard Maurice Watson Jr.

Watson, who sat out last season after transferring in from Boston University, was the catalyst for Creighton Saturday night. He accounted for 18 points and five assists in the second half, taking advantage of Butler’s perimeter defense in many ball-screen situations. Of the 43 second half points Creighton scored Watson played a role in 30 of them, and he was responsible (either by scoring or assisting) for ten of the Bluejays’ 11 made field goals.

Not mentioned among the best point guards in the Big East when the season began, game by game Watson’s proving that he belongs in the conversation. And that’s made a Creighton team that has other improved players, including center Geoffrey Groselle and shooting guard Isaiah Zierden, one capable of making a noticeable leap up the Big East standings.

Saturday night Creighton managed to take care of a Butler squad that, at 2-5 in conference play, seems to be searching for its identity at this point in the season. During non-conference play the offense was clicking at a rate higher than many anticipated. But things have slowed down on that end of the floor for Chris Holtmann’s team, and they’ve struggled in dealing with that. The Bulldogs have the experience, but can they get things going in the right direction? That’s the question that needs answering at this point in time.

There are no such doubts for Creighton, with roles seemingly well-defined and a team brimming with confidence. The Bluejays will have other opportunities to add to their NCAA tournament résumé, with four of their final six games coming on the road.

The key is getting to the point where those games, which include road tilts at Providence and Xavier, can help seal a return to the NCAA tournament. Thanks in large part to Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton took an important step in that direction Saturday night.

Creighton lands 2016 combo guard

Greg McDermott
Associated Press
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Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.

News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.

Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.

Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.

Former Kansas State guard transferring to Creighton

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Marcus Foster, a guard whose sophomore season at Kansas State was an inconsistent one, has found a new home. Foster, who entered last season as a candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year, has decided that he’ll complete his college career at Creighton.

Foster announced the decision on Twitter, and after sitting out the 2015-16 season he’ll have two years to play under head coach Greg McDermott.

As a sophomore Foster averaged 12.5 points per game, shooting just under 39 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from beyond the arc. He and head coach Bruce Weber clashed on multiple occasions throughout the season, but that was the story for most of the Kansas State team as a group that reached the NCAA tournament in 2014 finished below .500. In the case of Foster a change of scenery may benefit him, and he joins a Creighton system that should serve him well once eligible.

While Foster sits out this season Creighton will look for major contributions from two other transfers in guard Maurice Watson and forward Cole Huff, both of whom sat out the 2014-15 campaign per NCAA transfer rules. Both were productive options at their previous stops, Watson at Boston University and Huff at Nevada, and that will need to be the case next season as the Bluejays lost their lone double-digit scorer in guard Austin Chatman.

Foster is the fifth newcomer who will join the Creighton program this summer with the other four being freshmen. Guards Malon Stewart and Khyri Thomas, and forwards Justin Patton and Martin Krampelj complete the class, with the 6-foot-10 Patton the most highly regarded of the freshman quartet.

Creighton opening new practice facility for men’s basketball

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In looking to keep up in the Big East after the graduation of All-American Doug McDermott, Creighton has continued to aggressively recruit the country for talent, but they’ve also improved their on-campus amenities immensely with their new practice facility.

Athletic director Bruce Rasmussen showed off the new $13 million practice facility to the media on Friday. The Associated Press was there to take it in.

“Kids and their parents want to see if you’re walking the talk,” Rasmussen said to the media. “Everybody wants to be Top 25. They say we want to be an NCAA-caliber program every year. You come into the strength-and-conditioning area, you go into the athletic training area, you go into the academic support area and you see the practice area.

“You’re saying, ‘I think they have made a commitment to where they can say we’re trying to keep up and be nationally relevant with a number of sports.’ ”

The facility includes a pro-level practice floor paid for by Kyle Korver, a player’s lounge named after Doug McDermott (at the request of the donor) that includes tour 90-inch televisions and three 60-inch televisions.

A locker room touchscreen that is 94 inches and custom iPod docks for locker room and shower listening. The weight room has also doubled in size to 6,000 square feet and has an iPad attached to each station to record movement on the machine to report for data.

Creighton has done a nice job of investing money into the men’s basketball program through a very nice practice facility. By putting focus into development, players that Creighton recruits can buy into a plan and it should pay off for them long term.

Coming off of the having a prolific scoring All-American like Doug McDermott, the Bluejays are capitalizing immediately on the recruiting trail.