NEW YORK – They led by as much as 19. In the second half they saw it reduced to a one-possession game with just under two minutes left. Creighton showed their poise and determination by closing out a 86-78 victory at Madison Square Garden. The semifinal victory puts Creighton in the final against Providence.
A look at some of the numbers on the evening:
Pace: 61 possessions (on the deliberate side)
Efficiency: Creighton 141, Xavier 128
Two strong offensive showings, with Creighton a little better largely due to a 66 eFG mark. Xavier was aided by only four turnovers, an outstanding 7 percent TO rate.
1. Getting out to an early lead. Creighton established a double-digit lead early. That created a wealth of problems. As Xavier coach Chris Mack said, “They are so tough to play catch-up against.”
2. McDermott. Doug McDermott scored a game-high 32 points. The Creighton standout shot 10 of 20 from the floor and did pass some up to find teammates in a better position.
2A. Ethan Wragge. He has the green light and took a advantage. Wragge scored 17 points, shooting 5 of 9 from three. In fact, he did not attempt a two-point shot. His ability to hit from downtown provided a matchup problem for Xavier. “They are so tough to defend because they shot, move and pass the ball so well,” Mack said.
3. Offense – that of Xavier. The Musketeers had three players in double figures, led by Isaiah Philmore with 23 points. In Mack’s estimation, Xavier was unable to get an inside game on track until the final half. Mack also felt that Xavier’s Justin Martin, a factor in the recent over Creighton , was not as effective as the last meeting, scoring 12 points on 5 of 10 shooting.
Creighton, at 26-6 pays for a Big East championship and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Xavier at 21-12 is on the proverbial bubble and can only wait until Selection Sunday. Getting to the conference semis here should not hurt their resume during the selection process.