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Film Study: Execution Keys Decisive Creighton Run Against Iowa

by Nov 17, 2023Creighton Mens Basketball


No. 8 Creighton put together one of the most impressive stretches of offensive basketball you’ll see all season to pull away from Iowa in the Gavitt Games on Tuesday.

In lieu of a preview for Saturday’s game against Texas Southern (who scored 33 points against Virginia on Thursday) I’m opting to look back at the start of the second half against the Hawkeyes to break it down and show how special this team can be on the offensive end.

Ninety seconds into the second half, Iowa and Creighton were tied at 45-all. From that point forward, Creighton proceeded to score on 14 of its next 16 possessions, scoring 35 points in 9:15 to build an 80-63 lead. The Bluejays shot 14-of-16 from the field including 5-of-6 from 3 with two and-ones, one offensive rebound and one turnover. Ten of those 14 buckets were assisted. Seven different players scored and six different players recorded an assist. It truly was a team effort and the Bluejays executed at a ridiculously high level.

Creighton got some stops, which helped, but the Bluejays were just as effective after made buckets (scoring on seven of eight possessions) as they were after stops (7-of-8 again).

Let’s really dive in and go possession by possession to show how special of a run Creighton put together against the Hawkeyes.

It started with a stop, and as it often does for this team, that involved Ryan Kalkbrenner. The two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year rotated over and challenged a shot at the rim, triggering a Creighton fast break.

Mason Miller turning down a layup to kick to the corner certainly fits the “Let it Fly” mentality, and Baylor Scheierman made him look smart by burying the corner trey.

After Ben Krikke missed a mid-range jumper (a rare occurrence on Tuesday night), Creighton worked the ball around until it found its way into Scheierman’s hands.

Steven Ashworth had Krikke on him, so he ghosted a screen for Scheierman and the senior got downhill, getting past Dasonte Bowen, drawing Payton Sandfort in help then stopping and pivoting to throw a crosscourt pass to Trey Alexander on the weak side wing. His man, Tony Perkins, had dropped down on Kalkbrenner to help the helper and Scheierman made the right read to get Alexander a wide open look.

This next play forced a timeout from Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. Cross matches left Patrick McCaffery on Kalkbrenner and Krikke on Miller. Sandfort settled for a step-back 3 that didn’t go down and McCaffery jogged back, looking to pick up Miller. Kalkbrenner, on the other hand, made a beeline for the rim.

You’ll have a tough time finding a 7-footer who runs the floor better than Kalkbrenner, and Krikke had no shot of catching up to him. Alexander put the hit-ahead pass on the money to get Kalkbrenner a layup.

Out of the timeout, Iowa turned an offensive rebound into points. On the other end, Creighton moved the ball until it found its way to Alexander at the top of the key.

Kalkbrenner and Scheierman set screens and Alexander attacked middle. Perkins cut him off and Miller lifted to catch a pass on the wing. Alexander set his teammate a screen, which McCaffery died on. Perkins didn’t switch, so Miller put the ball on the deck once and knocked down the wide open pull-up 3.

Alexander is going to draw plenty of attention all season, and it will be important for guys like Miller to take advantage of that and burn teams for leaving him open.

You’ll see this next basic action again later on in different forms and it illustrates how difficult this team is to guard. It starts with a little circular action with Ashworth popping up top to receive the ball and Isaac Traudt cutting down to get in position to set a back screen for Kalkbrenner rolling to the rim.

McCaffery holds his ground until Krikke can recover to prevent the lob, and Traudt takes advantage of the delay to pop up top for a clean look from deep. Setting a back screen for a rim-runner with a knock-down shooter puts so much stress on a defense because it’s hard to stay with both players unless you switch, and that’s not something every team wants to do.

The last time Kalkbrenner scored in transition was because of a cross-match. On this next play, he just straight up beat Krikke down the floor.

Krikke missed the jumper, and as soon as Kalkbrenner saw the ball heading towards Alexander he took off as Krikke tried to turn around and get back. The 7-footer won the foot race and finished with a slam, triggering Iowa’s second timeout in the first five minutes of the half.

This next play is a Greg McDermott staple. He’s used it over the years to great effect. It starts with an entry to Kalkbrenner popping to the wing as Alexander waits in the corner. You’ll see decoy action on the bottom of the screen to distract from the real primary option of the play.

Ashworth sets a screen for Traudt while Scheierman approaches as if he’s going to take a handoff. Kalkbrenner takes one dribble toward the decoy action then reverse-pivots as Alexander fakes like he’s going to lift then back-cuts. Kalkbrenner put the pass on the money for the easy layup (though I’m not sure how it wasn’t an and-one).

Remember that action from a few plays ago with a big man rolling and a shooter popping? Here it is in a different form. It starts with an Iverson cut from Scheierman, then Fredrick King screens across for Traudt to pop to the top of the key.

Traudt knocked down the shot the last time he popped free, so this time Krikke jumps to him. However, there’s no communication and McCaffery also fought through the screen to jump to Traudt, leaving King open in the lane. Traudt hit him as McCaffery recovered to give a foul, but the official apparently decided to make up for the missed and-one on the previous play by giving King the bucket.

The next play was a simple staggered screen for Scheierman, and the senior did the rest.

Pristine spacing here with shooters in each corner and Alexander delivering the pass. The screen from King gave Scheierman a step on his man, and he did a great job of getting past Krikke when the big man stepped up to try to cut off the drive.

Here’s another play featuring a big man rolling and a shooter popping in the middle of the floor. Scheierman starts the play with a down screen for King as the big man runs up to set a ball screen for Alexander. The screen put Krikke in recovery mode from the start.

Krikke caught up as King was setting the screen then tried to hedge, but he’s a step slow and Alexander went right around him. Meanwhile, King is rolling to the rim and Josh Dix is too worried about Scheierman popping to get in King’s way. Alexander read the play perfectly and put the pass on the money for a King slam.

We’re focusing mainly on offense here, but check out the amount of ground Traudt covers on this play to force a miss at the rim, then enjoy what comes after.

Alexander had two dunks all of last season. He’s dunked in all three games so far this year. I’d say the offseason strength and conditioning work paid off for him.

On this next play, Creighton ran Alexander off three ball screens. Krikke hedges the last one and Dix tags King rolling to the rim, so Alexander hits Scheierman for the logo 3. He came up short, but the hedge meant Krikke was out of position to keep King off the glass.

The ball fell into King’s lap and he went up immediately with it for the and-one put-back.

Creighton only scored one 2-point shot outside the point against Iowa (in contrast to Iowa’s steady dose of mid-range jumpers), but it was a beauty.

Creighton ran a ton of actions during the first 10 minutes of the second half to generate great looks, but this play was all Alexander doing what he does best.

Speaking of Alexander, remember how I said he’s going to draw plenty of attention and the role players have to be ready to take advantage? That’s exactly what happened on this last play.

One shooter in the corner, one on the wing, ball screen up top with a rim roller and another shooter. Alexander used Kalkbrenner’s screen to attack middle and Dix helped off Francisco Farabello to plus the gap. Alexander made the easy pass and Farabello knocked down the open 3 to cap the run and put the Bluejays up by 17.

Again, 35 points on 16 possessions (2.19 points per possession) in a 9:15 span is simply ridiculous, but it wasn’t the result of some out-of-body shooting performance from the Jays. Every single look was a good one thanks to a mix of pushing off stops, executing halfcourt sets and making terrific individual plays.

Creighton will certainly run up against teams that provide more resistance than the Hawkeyes did, but if they can continue to execute anywhere near the level they did on Tuesday, the Bluejays are going to win a lot of games this season.

Keep an eye out for the actions you saw above when Creighton hosts Texas Southern on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT on FS2.

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