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Bluejays Looking to Even the Score at Butler

by Feb 16, 2024Creighton Mens Basketball

Creighton vs. Butler
Photo Credit: Brandon Tiedemann

Before the Georgetown game, Coach Greg McDermott drew a broken ladder for his team to illustrate the final stretch of the season and the steps the Bluejays needed to take to reach their goals.

Beating the Hoyas fixed one of the rungs. The next opportunity to move up that ladder is Saturday as No. 17 Creighton visits Butler for an 11:30 a.m. CT tipoff on FOX.

“When you get close to the end, you can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel,” McDermott said of the ladder. “I think it visually gives you an idea of how important all these games are and how they can position you for the Big East tournament and beyond. I’ve used it at times in the past, but we’re nearing the end.”

The first meeting between the two teams, a 99-98 Butler win at CHI Health Center Omaha, has stuck with the Bluejays (18-7, 9-5 Big East, 16 NET) more than many of their other losses.

“What’s going through my mind is we’re not going to let them drop 99 points on us again, obviously,” redshirt freshman Jasen Green said. “We’ve got to step up defensively and do a little better job there … I feel like we’re all taking it personally just because of the amount of points that they put on our head at our house. We took it personally and we just have to come back and give them what they gave us.”

The Bulldogs (16-9, 7-7, 49 NET) shot 55.1% from the field including 59.1% from 3 against the Jays in Omaha. The loss stuck with McDermott as well, but after several film reviews, his mind is focused more on his team’s mistakes than anything the Bulldogs did.

“Obviously I’ve been through the film several times, right after the game and really studied it the last couple of days,” McDermott said. “There were many possessions where Butler just made really good plays, made what we would consider shots that we want them to take. Now, the challenge for us is to eliminate some of the other ones. We fouled two 3-point shooters, we got beat on a couple of back cuts, we got refused on a couple of screens. Those things can’t happen. But it’s a very talented team, as you can see by how competitive they’ve been in virtually every game.”

A big part of Butler’s offensive explosion was Jahmyl Telfort, the 6-foot-7 forward who went off for a season-high-tying 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting (2-of-3 from 3) and four assists. Green was on the scout team at that point and spent his practice time emulating Telfort. Now that he’s cracked the rotation, he’s preparing to potentially guard Telfort (14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game) instead.

“When I emulated him the first time, I didn’t do as many things as he did during the game because we thought he was more like a downhill floater type of guy, but when we played against him, he was hitting all types of shots on us,” Green said. “I feel like we learned a lot from our game against him, so it’ll be a little different scout in regards to him.”

Another difference from the first game is Posh Alexander will be back in the Butler lineup after missing the first meeting. The 6-foot point guard is the Bulldogs’ best on-ball defender and distributor (5.2 assists per game), but he’s also a poor 3-point shooter (26.2%).

In the first game, the Bluejays did a good job containing Butler’s leading scorer in Pierre Brooks (15.8 points per game, 41.4% from 3), but DJ Davis (14.2 points per game, 37.9% from 3) got loose for 22 points.

“Transition defense is huge,” McDermott said. “Davis and Brooks shoot it so well in transition, so you have to get back and get it put together, especially in their building. We did a good job rebounding the basketball here, I think we did a good job of getting to the free-throw line and keeping them off it. I think those are things that are really important to winning on the road and the things that we’ll focus on moving into this game.”

Saturday will be Creighton’s third pre-noon (CT) tipoff of the season, which requires a change in routine from a typical afternoon or night game. Creighton is 3-7 at Butler since joining the Big East.

“It doesn’t matter what time we’ve played in Hinkle [Fieldhouse], it seems to have a problem with us at any time of the day,” McDermott said. “There’s something about just getting up and tying your shoes and let’s go play a game. You don’t sit around and think about it all day. So it’s important we get a very good prep … Without a shoot-around, it’s just a little bit different in terms of your preparation.”

Kevin Kugler and LaPhonso Ellis will be on the call for FOX.

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