Playing their first game without Mo Watson, No. 7 Creighton dug themselves an early hole and could never climb out, losing at home to Marquette, 102-94.
On the surface, it’s pretty clear what happened here, right? The Bluejays lost their all-american point guard, the guy that set the tone for their high-octane offense, and the result was a mollywhopping in front of their home fans.
And their may be something to that. It took Creighton a while to find their footing offensively – they missed 23 of their first 34 shots from the floor – and that’s before you consider the mental side of losing the leader of your team.
But Creighton’s issue on Saturday wasn’t on the offensive side of the ball. They put up 94 points. They shot 49.3 percent from the floor and 11-for-24 from three. They only committed 11 turnovers. Isaiah Zierdan, who started in Watson’s place, finished with 15 points and hit all four of his threes. Davion Mintz, who played the majority of the minutes at the point guard spot, had 17 points and eight assists while turning the ball over just two times. Marcus Foster looked like the Marcus Foster that was first-team all-Big 12 as a freshman, finishing with 30 points.
Their transition game wasn’t quite as lethal as with Watson, but overall, Creighton scored enough to win.
Their may have been some mitigating factors there – and I’ll get to those in a second – but on paper, the defensive side of the ball was far more concerning. Simply put, you aren’t going to win many games when you give up 1.275 points-per-possession or allow an opponent to shoot 60 percent from the floor.
Now maybe there was a reason that Creighton struggled so much early in the game. Maybe there numbers are somewhat inflated by the fact that Marquette was trying not to foul down the stretch. Maybe Creighton’s effectiveness offensively had just as much to do with them as it did with a Marquette team that entered Saturday ranked 143rd in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric.
Calling a home loss to a likely NIT team promising is silly.
But there is reason to be optimistic if you are a Creighton fan.
They got lit up by a team with one of the nation’s most efficient offenses. It happens. But if they can keep scoring at this clip, maybe their ceiling didn’t fall quite as far as we thought it would in a post-Mo Watson world.