Hurrdat Sports

↓ The Local Coverage You Need ↓

Hail Varsity
Mavericks All Access
Bluejay Breakdown
NEB Preps
NEB Pros

Creighton Falls to Providence in Big East Tournament Quarterfinals

by Mar 14, 2024Creighton Mens Basketball

Big East Tournament. Photo by Eric Francis.
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

NEW YORK — Second-seeded Creighton men’s basketball went one-and-done in the Big East Tournament, falling to No. 7 Providence in Thursday’s quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden.

Here are three takeaways from the loss.

Missed Opportunities

Creighton trailed for much of the night, but the Jays went into the final three-and-a-half minutes down by just two points with every opportunity to tie it up or take the lead.

Ryan Kalkbrenner earned a trip to the foul line and missed the front end of the bonus. Then Steven Ashworth got free for a 3 that went halfway down and popped back out. After that, Trey Alexander went 0-for-2 at the charity stripe. Following a 20-for-20 start, Creighton’s leaders missed the three most important foul shots of the game.

Devin Carter scored at the rim to push the lead to four with 1:38 to play, then Scheierman came up short on his own layup before Josh Oduro banked in a dagger with just under a minute to play.

Ashworth dropped in a high-arcing layup plus a foul to cut the deficit in half, but the Friars closed it out at the foul line.

“Obviously a very physical game,” McDermott said. “We had some chances late. I’m proud that we didn’t quit. We weren’t quite ourselves defensively for a good portion of the game … I think there was a three-possession stretch, we missed the front end of a one-and-one, Ashworth had a 3 that was basically all the way down and popped out, and we missed two free throws the next possession. And when you’re trying to win a close game against a good team, we couldn’t afford those empty possessions.”

As McDermott said, when you dig yourself a hole, it eliminates all margin for error. It takes so much energy simply to get back into the game that it leaves little in the tank to close it out. You have to play nearly flawless basketball or hope the opponent trips up, and neither happened for the Jays.

Sometimes, that’s the way the ball bounces. The last time Creighton took the floor it went the other way, with Villanova needing to climb out of a big hole and Creighton — more specifically, Alexander — making the winning play at the end. The best way to avoid a loss like Thursday’s is to make sure it doesn’t come down to the end by playing better early in the game.

In the end, Creighton’s brief stay is one final learning experience before the Jays head to the Big Dance.

Friar Desperation

Providence played with the intensity of a team that knew it was fighting for its NCAA Tournament life. Coach Kim English’s technical less than six minutes into the game seemed to light an even hotter fire under his team.

“I thought Devin got a clean block and great play,” English said. “In a game of this magnitude, I lost my way a little bit, or a lot of bit. But they’ve had to hold me back a few times this season throughout. And these guys — Bryce Hopkins was grabbing, pulling on my trousers, telling me to calm down. And I did, and I thought our guys responded really well.”

The Friars ripped off a 23-7 run including a personal 8-0 spurt for Carter, the newly-named Big East Player of the Year, to build a nine-point lead 15 minutes in.

Providence extended its defense on and off the ball, hounding the Jays all over the court. They crashed the offensive glass relentlessly. That led to 11 first-half free throws for Creighton, but the disruptiveness limited the Jays to 25.8% shooting in the first 20 minutes as well.

Creighton defended well enough to hang around, trailing by three at halftime, but the break didn’t lessen Providence’s intensity in the slightest. The Bluejays had a tough time getting open and completing passes, and their inability to execute led to some questionable shots and rough turnovers. Providence extended its lead out to 13 a couple of times.

Ryan Kalkbrenner blocks a shot from Providence’s Corey Floyd Jr. Photo by Eric Francis.

“They were really active,” Kalkbrenner said. “They top-locked a lot, did a good job disrupting our plays, not allowing us to go from point A to point B so it messed up the timing of some of our plays.”

Then the tide changed, with Kalkbrenner as the driving force. Creighton put together a 23-11 run to take its first lead since midway through the first half. Kalkbrenner showed why he’s a three-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year and recorded nine points, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal during that stretch while altering a few additional Friar shots. His defense sparked Creighton’s transition offense as well as the Jays scored 15 fast-break points in the second half after just two in the first.

“We were able to get him involved offensively, and a couple of times he got offensive rebounds and put backs as well,” Scheierman said. “And defensively he had a couple blocked shots. In the ball screen coverage we play, he was able to veer switch on and make Carter’s life difficult, and we were able to switch it back. So he played a big part in it.”

Kalkbrenner finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and two steals while playing the full 40 minutes, but said he should have been better for his team in the first half.

The Door Still Stands

Creighton was playing for NCAA Tournament seeding this week in New York. The Jays went in firmly on the three-line with a chance to play their way into a two with a deep run. In that sense, they didn’t lose much — and teams like Providence and St. John’s had far more on the line.

Going one-and-done in the Big East Tournament doesn’t hurt Creighton much in the long run, but it certainly stung on Thursday night.

“We don’t end up with the pressure on us that Providence had going into the game where it’s win or go home,” McDermott said. “But we wanted to win a championship. We’ve been to the championship game four times and this group really wanted to kick that door down, and I thought we had the group to do it. We weren’t our best tonight; Providence certainly had a lot to do with that. The good news is we get a little rest, we go home, we can work on ourselves for a few days and hopefully be sharp for whoever we play next week.”

Scheierman got off to a brilliant start, hitting four of his first five shots for a quick 10 points. He then missed his last 11 attempts, finishing with 16 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three turnovers in 40 minutes. The good news is he’ll have another chance to write a better final chapter in his Creighton story.

“You’ve got to move on to the next game, trust my preparation and the work I put in,” Scheierman said. “Steph Curry has games where he goes 2-for-12, and the next game, he comes out firing. The guys have a lot of trust, the coaches have a lot of trust in me because of the way I prepare, and nothing changes for me going into the next week. I’m going to prepare like I always do.”

That goes for everyone as Creighton shot 37.9% from the field and just 6-for-26 from 3. Thursday’s loss looked too much like most of Creighton’s other losses, where the opposing team’s physicality took Creighton out of what it wanted to do.

“Credit them, they had a really good game plan and they executed it really well, but we have to be able to learn from that and adjust when teams are doing that, because teams are going to watch that film and try to replicate what Providence did,” Kalkbrenner said. “Mac’s a really good, smart coach, so we’ll go back to the drawing board and come up with something if we face a team like that in the NCAAs.”

It’ll be a long wait until Selection Sunday with Thursday’s loss leaving a sour taste in the Jays’ mouths as the head back to Omaha to Saturday’s championship game from home.

YouTube video

You May Also Like

2024 Creighton Men’s Basketball Offseason Tracker

2024 Creighton Men’s Basketball Offseason Tracker

The college basketball season is over, but there's no time for college coaches to relax. The transfer portal is wide open and coaches — including Creighton's Greg McDermott — are working to set up their rosters for the future. We've already seen plenty of activity...

2024 Creighton Men’s Basketball Offseason Primer

2024 Creighton Men’s Basketball Offseason Primer

The season came to an end in the Sweet 16 for Creighton men’s basketball, potentially marking the conclusion of a special era in program history. The Jays finished 25-10 after their fourth-straight NCAA Tournament run, and now attention turns to what comes next. With...