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Kalkbrenner’s Perfect Day Leads Creighton to 85-64 Win Over Seton Hall

by Feb 29, 2024Creighton Mens Basketball

Creighton Bluejays center Ryan Kalkbrenner #11 dunks the ball during a game against against the Seton Hall Pirates at CHI Health Center Arena in Omaha, NE February 28th 2024. Photo by Eric Francis
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

No. 12 Creighton men’s basketball only needed 40 minutes to dispatch Seton Hall on Wednesday, blowing out the Pirates 85-64 at CHI Health Center Omaha.

Here are three takeaways from the win.

Locked in to Lock Up

The first half was one of the better 20-minute stretches of defense Creighton has played this season. The Jays were locked in, consistently forcing Seton Hall into low-percentage shots and then getting a hand up to contest many of those looks on top of it.

Additionally, the Jays were as disruptive as they’ve been all season. Creighton was dead last in the country (that’s No. 362) in opponent turnover percentage (11.1%) heading in. On Wednesday, Creighton recorded six steals and three Ryan Kalkbrenner blocks in the first half alone.

That effort resulted in a 32.3 shooting percentage, just three free-throw attempts and seven turnovers as Creighton took a 38-22 lead into halftime.

The Jays pushed the lead out to 27 in the second half before the defense started to slip a bit and the Pirates started hitting some shots. Seton Hall shot over 50% from the field in the second half but the Pirates still finished under a point per possession with a 19.1 turnover percentage.

“Defensively that first half, we were really locked in to our plan,” Coach Greg McDermott said. “I thought we did a good job on [Kadary] Richmond, good job on [Al-Amir] Dawes, good job on Dre Davis. I thought Trey [Alexander] and Steven [Ashworth] really worked hard to try to make their catches a little bit tougher; that was the one adjustment that we made from the first time we played them. And then to start the second half was just beautiful basketball offensively, the way the ball moved and we turned good shots into great shots.”

Creighton tied its season high for forced turnovers with 13 and set a new high with 10 steals. All five starters recorded a steal led by three apiece from Alexander and Baylor Scheierman.

“Like Mac said, we worked on a lot of denying on Dawes and Kadary and I think that worked well tonight, and even when we were two passes away we were in the gap really good tonight,” Alexander said. “I think that we were able to disrupt a lot of shots knowing that Kadary was trying to get to the rim and knowing that Dre Davis and those guys wanted to get downhill, so we were in the gap heavy tonight and we were we were helping each other very well tonight. I think that was really the difference in the game.”

Points in the paint and free throws were a wash. The 3-point line was the difference in the game as Creighton held Seton Hall to 2-for-9 while firing up 32 attempts on the other end, hitting 12. With Ashworth and Francisco Farabello as the primary defenders, Creighton held Dawes (36.3% on 6.3 attempts per game) to one 3-point attempt.

“Steven was just absolutely phenomenal on Dawes,” McDermott said. “He hit a really tough 3 on Bello in the second half and to think that that is their go-to 3-point shooter and when Steven Ashworth was on him, he didn’t attempt one 3-point shot. So you’re making a guy do something he doesn’t want to do. To hold him to one 3-point shot in the game was really a credit to Bello and Steven being so locked in.”

Better Together

Wednesday was Creighton’s ABIDE night, raising money for the nonprofit run by former Bluejay Josh Dotzler working to improve inner-city neighborhoods in North Omaha. ABIDE’s motto is “Better Together,” and the Bluejays certainly reflected that message on the court.

Creighton dished out 20 assists on 31 field goals with five different players connecting from the 3-point line. The Jays went on runs of 11-0, 13-2 and 15-4 to blow the game wide open.

Alexander set the tone with his playmaking, finishing with a career-high 10 assists to go with his 15 points. Seton Hall was aggressive with its ball screen coverages, hedging and trapping throughout the game, and Alexander did a great job of handling the pressure and making plays. Four of his assists went to Ryan Kalkbrenner at the rim.

“I think that Kalk did really good job of getting out of ball screens pretty fast,” Alexander said. “I think that’s something that he’s been working on the past couple of days and something that we knew we were going to be able to get a couple of times with him on the late roll, so I knew that if I stretched it out a little bit and let the person that’s supposed to be tagging against him just make a decision, whether that be having to stay out there with a shooter and I hit Kalk, or if they stay with Kalk then I know Kalk’s probably going to flare the shooter and I’ll be able to throw it over top. I think we just had a really good game plan going into this game and I think that everybody was ready to make shots tonight.”

In addition to his six rebounds and four blocks, Kalkbrenner finished a perfect 10-for-10 from the field for 23 points, passing Vernon Moore and Paul Silas to move into ninth place on Creighton’s career scoring chart. He’s sitting at 1,663 points as a Bluejay.

“It’s definitely an honor because we’ve had a lot of great players,” Kalkbrenner said. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I should be in that top 10 because I just showed up as a freshman not really know what I’m doing and all of a sudden, I’ve been lucky enough to spend four years here and have a really successful career. So it’s been a lot of fun and I’m just I’m just really happy I ended up here. This has been a great place for me.”

Scheierman bounced back from Sunday’s tough shooting performance to go 6-for-10 from deep, finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season, tying the most by any Bluejay since 1987-88. Scheierman notched 13 double-doubles in his first season in Omaha and Bob Harstad did it in 1988-89 as well. Additionally, in fitting fashion with a step-back 3 to beat the shot-clock buzzer, Scheierman surpassed 1,000 points at Creighton in the second half.

He’s the 11th player to score 1,000 points at two different Division I schools.

“It’s really incredible,” McDermott said. “The season’s not even over yet. It took me four years in college to barely get over 1,000 points, so the fact that he did it in less than half the time is pretty amazing. But he means so much more to our team than scoring, and that’s probably as good a compliment as I can give him because he impacts the game with his rebounding — he’s one of the best rebounders from the guard position I’ve ever coached — and then the improvement he’s made defensively from last year to this year and the way he’s changed his body.

“Sometimes when guys make a decision to come back because they want to get better, sometimes they put the work in and sometimes they don’t. And in his case, he really attacked the weaknesses that he had in his game and you’re seeing it on full display. He just continues to be a double-double machine in this league and it’s hard to get double-doubles in any league, but try doing it in the Big East.”

Isaac Traudt provided a spark off the bench as well with 11 points on 3-of-3 from deep and 2-of-2 from the line in just under seven minutes. The redshirt freshman had scored six points total in his previous 10 games and matched that in a 30-second span in the first half, hitting 3s on back-to-back possessions during an 11-0 Creighton run.

YouTube video

Standings Implications

Wednesday’s game was big not only because it got the Bluejays back in the win column after the loss to St. John’s, but because it came against the team ahead of them in the standings. With the win, Creighton moved ahead of the Pirates into third place with a 12-6 record, while Seton Hall fell to 11-6. The season sweep also gives Creighton the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Pirates.

“It’s big for us,” Alexander said. “I think that we want to get rolling at the right time. It was a great way to bounce back from a tough loss the other night. So I think for us it was it was good to be able to break the tiebreaker if it comes down to it and being able to just get the ball rolling getting ready for Big East [Tournament] play and being able to go into March and be able to make a deep run.”

Creighton sits at 21-8 with a big game ahead as No. 5 Marquette will visit Omaha on Saturday. The Golden Eagles are in second place with a 13-4 record and games against No. 3 UConn and at Xavier remaining.

A win on Saturday would give the Jays a great chance at earning the No. 2 seed for the Big East Tournament if the Huskies can take down the Golden Eagles like they did a couple weeks ago.

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