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No. 13 Creighton Men’s Basketball Falls to Butler in Shootout

by Feb 3, 2024Creighton Mens Basketball

Creighton vs. Butler
Photo Credit: Brandon Tiedemann

No. 13 Creighton men’s basketball dropped a shootout on its home court Friday night, falling to Butler 99-98.

The Bluejays fell to 16-6 overall including 7-4 in Big East play and will hit the road for two games next week.

Here are three takeaways from the loss.

Missed Opportunities

The game went down to the final half second, and Creighton had numerous chances to tie or take the lead. After making the winning plays on the road in the triple-overtime win at Seton Hall, the Jays came up empty on every attempt to do so at CHI Health Center Omaha.

It was a one-possession game throughout the final three minutes. With just over 90 seconds to play and down by 3, Creighton got Baylor Scheierman open in front of his own bench for a potential game-tying 3. It didn’t go down.

After a missed Butler shot and a foul put Trey Alexander at the line, he cut the deficit to one with just over a minute to go, but Creighton couldn’t get a second straight stop. Down three again, Creighton ran a play to get Steven Ashworth a clean look from 3 with just under 45 seconds to play. Again, he couldn’t knock it down.

Pierre Brooks gave Creighton another chance by missing the front end of the bonus. This time Coach Greg McDermott called Trey Alexander’s number, and again the Bluejays executed well enough to get him an open look. He missed, Ryan Kalkbrenner grabbed the rebound and the Jays swung the ball back to Alexander for another look from the right wing, which also missed but went out of bounds off Butler.

After giving up so many clean looks from the perimeter, Butler Coach Thad Matta instructed his team to foul, which it did immediately after the in-bounds pass to Kalkbrenner with 10.2 to play. He hit both free throws to cut it to one and Creighton set up a press. Francisco Farabello managed to knock the ball out off Butler, giving Creighton a chance to take the lead with 10.4 remaining.

The Jays threw it in over the top to Alexander and cleared out the side for him to drive to his strong right hand, but he got bumped by Brooks and lost control of the ball as it hit his foot and flew out of bounds with 8.3 to play — another missed opportunity.

Butler hit two free throws to push it back to three with 6.4 to go, and again Butler fouled immediately after Creighton passed it in to Alexander. He went 2-for-2, leading to another press situation, and again Farabello forced a turnover, poking the ball free then securing it for the steal. However, as he tried to attack instead of pulling the ball out, a Bulldog knocked away. Mason Miller dove after it and created a jump ball with 0.5 on the clock and the possession arrow pointing Creighton’s way.

With one last chance and the ball on the sideline, McDermott drew up a lob play for Kalkbrenner, but Butler sniffed it out, switched the screen for the big man and broke up the pass to end the game. Half a second is technically enough time to catch and shoot by rule, but drawing a play up for a jump shooter with that little time would have led to a rushed shot anyway.

According to Ken Pomeroy, who apparently timed it, the final minute of regulation last 22 real-time minutes.

Creighton had seven chances to tie or take the lead and went 0-for-4 from 3 with two turnovers and a deflected pass.

“Baylor had one in front of our bench too that was wide open, and then Trey got two wide open shots,” McDermott said. “And then we had the ball and we decided to go to Trey. He’s been our most consistent player in crunch time. He had half a step on him and he dribbled it off his foot. There were a couple of defensive stops down there where we made great plays, the ball bounced around and it ended up right in their hands. Some nights it doesn’t bounce your way either. We would run that play 100 times again for Trey because he’s been so efficient in those moments for us this season.”

In terms of executing the game plan down the stretch, Creighton did a great job on both ends of the floor. They generated four open 3s and forced two turnovers in the final 10 seconds when they needed them most. However, they just couldn’t finish.

No Answers Defensively

Defense has become the calling card for this Creighton team as the Jays entered Friday’s game 12th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.

One area in which they have particularly excelled is defending the perimeter. Creighton was second in the country in opponent 3-point attempt rate, but that didn’t show up in the first half as the 3-point line kept the Bulldogs in the game. Butler shot 8-of-14 in the first half and hit two of them in the final 45 seconds to cut a 10-point Creighton lead down to four at the break.

Creighton did a decent job inside the arc defensively, holding Butler to 50% at the rim and under 50% overall, but the 3-pointer is the great equalizer. Creighton put up 49 points in the first half and only led by four at the break.

“I think they hit a few tough ones for sure with guys in their face, and then they did a good job of running their actions with pace,” Scheierman said. “A couple of times we had switched and we didn’t get out there on the switch and they knocked it down, and they hit a 40-footer at half time.”

Halftime didn’t improve the defensive execution any. Butler scored on eight of its first 10 possessions, four of which were three-point trips, to jump ahead by four, and that set the tone for the rest of the game.

Fourteen minutes into the second half, Butler held its largest lead at 87-82 and had made 16 of its 22 shots, a 72.7% clip. The Bulldogs did a better job getting to the rim and finishing than in the first half, continued shooting 3s at a high clip and also knocked down some tough in-between shots in the lane. Pretty much everything the Bulldogs threw up went in the basket.

Butler shot 15-of-26 on shots in the lane outside the restricted area with Jahmyl Telfort doing the most damage. He finished with 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting with half his makes coming in the area where Creighton’s defense is designed to funnel other teams.

“In our preparation, a lot of it is about making somebody miss, and I felt like tonight there were opportunities where we could have maybe put a little bit more pressure to make them miss,” Ashworth said. “They were in a rhythm, they were comfortable and you’ve got to tip your cap to a team that can shoot it that well. I felt like there were some great individual plays and then at the same time, I felt like on our defensive side, there were a lot of great multiple efforts that we were making and a lot of great contests … It was definitely tough to corral them and they played really, really well.”

Creighton managed to make it a one-point game with under a minute to play, and one more stop would have given the Jays a chance to take the lead. However, the Bulldogs went to Telfort one more time and he delivered, backing down Scheierman then falling away for a tough fader, setting up the wild last 45 seconds.

Butler scored 1.543 points per possession in the second half and finished at 1.356 for the game. Friday was the most points Creighton has given up in regulation since a 103-92 loss to Gonzaga during the 2018-19 season. The Bulldogs shot 55.1% from the field and 59.1% from 3 while committing just five turnovers, and the Bluejays fouled two different 3-point shooters in addition to the 13 triples Butler knocked down.

“Heck of a college basketball game,” McDermott said. “Hats off Butler; they did to us what nobody’s been able to do all season long. Their efficiency from the 3-point line, six different guys making 3s, I think all of them were 50% or better except for Brooks, who was 40%. So in some ways we got beat at our own game. We kind of matched them points in the paint but made some mistakes at times on shooters, fouled a couple 3-point shooters which you can’t do … We got beat by a team that played really, really well tonight and we have to tip our hats to them. Anybody who comes in here and scores 99 points against us on our home floor played pretty darn well.”

Offensive Explosion

The final 90 seconds and the final score may cover up that Friday was as complete an offensive performance as Creighton has had this season. The team’s top four scorers each went for 20-plus, the Jays scored 46 points in the paint, they hit nine 3-pointers at a 36% clip (which was at nearly 43% before those last four misses), they went 21-for-24 at the foul line (11 more makes than the Bulldogs) and they only turned the ball over nine times.

“You look at the stat sheet, in some ways it’s hard to believe we lost,” McDermott said. “We made double the free throws they did, out-rebounded them by 10, shot 55% on our home floor. If you would have told me that going in I would tell you we’re going to win handily. But their shot-making was elite … As I said going into this game, February is going to be a beast. It’s going to be a bear. I knew Butler was really good. You don’t go to Marquette and win unless you’re really good, and they played as well offensively tonight as anybody’s played against us all season.”

Scheierman scored a season-high 26 points despite only hitting two 3s as he shot 7-of-10 inside the arc and 6-of-8 from the foul line. He also pulled down 10 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.

Ashworth matched Scheierman with 26 points, also a season high. He shot 9-of-15 from the field, 4-of-8 from 3 and 4-of-4 from the stripe with four assists and just one turnover. Ashworth went 9-for-17 from 3 in his last two games, and he and Scheierman combined to shoot 7-of-9 in the restricted area as Ashworth showed more aggressiveness and effectiveness attacking the rim than we’ve seen from him all year.

Alexander put up 22 points on 50% shooting, eight rebounds and four assists. The three veteran guards each played the entire 40 minutes. Kalkbrenner logged just over 38 minutes and finished with 20 points on 6-of-8 from the field (1pof-1 from 3) and 7-of-8 from the line, eight rebounds and two blocks. Friday was the first time Creighton has had four different players hit the 20-point mark in the same game since at least 2005-06.

“I was talking with Mitch Ballock in the locker room and we were talking about the level of shot-making on both sides,” Scheierman said. “Coach Mac talked about how the film will tell us how much of it was good shot-making and how much was defensive lapses. We’ve got to get ready for Providence, and we’ll get in the film room and practice floor tomorrow and get better.”

With Alexander continuing to scorch the nets from the mid-range, Scheierman and Ashworth adding rim pressure to their 3-point shooting and playmaking and Kalkbrenner converting at a high rate at the rim, Creighton’s offense appears to really be hitting its stride. The Bluejays have scored 85 or more points in four straight games, the first time the program has done that in conference play. Maintain this offense and get back to their normal performance on defense and the Jays will be in good shape, despite a difficult stretch coming up.

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