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Seniors Step Up as No. 12 Creighton Tops No. 5 Marquette

by Mar 2, 2024Creighton Mens Basketball

Creighton Bluejays guard Baylor Scheierman #55 during a game against against the Marquette Golden Eagles at CHI Health Center Arena in Omaha, NE March 2nd 2024. Photo by Eric Francis
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

No. 12 Creighton men’s basketball pulled away late for an 89-75 win over a short-handed No. 5 Marquette squad in the home finale Saturday.

Here are three takeaways from the senior day victory.

Seniors Get their Send-Off

Creighton honored three seniors after the game, and all three made a significant impact on the win.

Baylor Scheierman recorded his 14th double-double of the season, the most by a Bluejay since 1987-88 (bettering his total of 13 from last season), and it was a big one. He finished with 26 points (one off his Creighton career high), 16 rebounds (his Creighton career high, two shy of his collegiate career high), six 3-pointers (tying his career-high), four assists, two steals and a block.

“It’s special,” said the Aurora native, who had a big group of friends and family in the building to watch his final game in his home state. “It’s a lot of hard work gone into that and just a lot of people to thank, my coaches and teammates at the top of the list. I’m not doing what I’m doing without them, so it’s really a team thing for me. I’m just really grateful to be a part of this one.”

Creighton’s other fifth-year senior, Francisco Farabello, had a perfect day, scoring 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting including 2-of-2 from 3 in 18 minutes. It’s his second double-digit scoring game of the season, third as a Bluejay and eighth of his five-year career.

“It’s fitting because he’s done so much that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet,” Coach Greg McDermott said. “So for him to have things show up on a stat sheet in his final game here, that’s poetic justice because he’s been as good a teammate as you can ever, ever ask for … He’s been everything I could have wished for and more. You bring in a transfer from a Power Five school and he doesn’t start a game in his career, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the guy complain, because it’s never about him, it’s about somebody else, and that’s why he’s going to be successful long after he’s done playing basketball, whatever he chooses to do. He gets it, he gets people, he gets relationships and I think if you polled our guys, he’s one of their go-tos, freshmen through seniors.”

Scheierman and Farabello joined the program together and they’re going out together in fitting fashion as Scheierman’s last assist came on a deep pass down the floor against Marquette’s pressure that Farabello tracked down for a layup to put Creighton up 15 with 1:16 to play.

“It’s special to go out with Bello,” Scheierman said. “We live together, we’ve got the same class schedule, obviously we’re on the same team, so we’re literally together 24/7. He’s a part of my family. Obviously his family is halfway across the world. So I just can’t really put into words what he means to mean. I have a younger brother, but now it feels like I have a brother that’s my age as well. Just everything we’ve been through, the late-night talks at our apartment, late-night Chipotle runs like, those are the memories. He’s going to be a part of my family forever.”

Finally, Ryan Kalkbrenner — the lone senior with remaining eligibility — finished with 19 points on 9-of-12 from the field and 1-of-2 from the line, six rebounds and five blocks. His final play on the CHI Health Center court was a fitting one as well, erasing a Stevie Mitchell layup with less than 30 seconds to play (Scheierman grabbed the rebound) before McDermott called a timeout to sub out each of the starters one by one as applause rained down.

YouTube video

Creighton doesn’t recognize non-seniors on senior day, but junior Trey Alexander could have played his last game in Omaha as well if he chooses to pursue a professional career as a potential first-round NBA Draft pick. If so, it was a memorable finale for him as well as he recorded his second straight double-double with 18 points, a career-high 11 assists and four rebounds.

Knock-Out Blow

It was anyone’s game with just over four minutes to play, with Creighton leading 69-67. The Jays had plenty of chances to stretch it out throughout the second half but missed eight straight 3-point attempts, many of which were good looks.

However, Marquette decided to go zone and Creighton made the Golden Eagles pay for it as Steven Ashworth found Scheierman with a skip pass for a left corner 3. Creighton forced a pass into the backcourt on the other end and Ashworth tracked it down for a steal, then out of a timeout Alexander got downhill and kicked to Farabello in the right corner for a 3 of his own.

“When Bello let that one go in the corner I said to myself under my breath, ‘Let that go in for senior day,’” McDermott said.

It did. Stevie Mitchell got all the way to the rim for a layup to get Marquette back on the board after that, but Ashworth again found Scheierman in the left corner and he let it fly again with the same result.

Kam Jones missed the front end of the bonus, then Creighton again found Scheierman in the left corner with the same result, only this time he turned with the ball still in the air, letting everyone know he didn’t even need to look at it because he knew it was going in.

The flurry of 3s from Creighton’s two super seniors essentially ended the game, putting the Jays up by 12 with just over two minutes to play.

“You work hard for moments like that, especially how special this game was for us being the last one on at CHI,” Farabello said. “But as I said, you a dream of moments like that. Baylor’s a big-time player, so we know that that he’s going to appear in those moments, and I was lucky enough to knock it down.”

Creighton hasn’t always been as consistent as you’d like to see, but all season long the Jays have been capable of catching fire and burying teams, and that’s exactly what they did to close out a 14-2 season at CHI Health Center Omaha.

Adjusting on the Fly

Marquette star point guard Tyler Kolek, the reigning Big East player of the Year, suffered an oblique injury in the Golden Eagles’ win over Providence on Wednesday. McDermott said they prepared as if Kolek would play and would adjust if he didn’t. Then news came shortly before tipoff that not only was Kolek out, so was big man Oso Ighodaro with an illness.

That left Marquette without its two best playmakers and their combined 29.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game, and it made the Golden Eagles a completely different team.

“Great win, hard game for us to play,” McDermott said. “We were anticipating possibly Kolek being out. Oso being out obviously throws a huge wrench into our defensive plan and we kind of talked as a staff when we found out before the game, we’re going to probably have to adjust on the fly because we really weren’t sure what they would do, who’s going to initiate the offense, what’s going to be different from what they’ve done in the past, and there was a lot that was different.”

Marquette scored 40 points in the first half including 24 in the paint, playing a five-out style to create driving opportunities. The Golden Eagles didn’t shoot at a high percentage from the 3-point line, but they took plenty of them in an effort to spread out Creighton’s defense and take Kalkbrenner away from the rim.

“Our drop coverage is 98% of what we do,” McDermott said. “You can switch it, which has some potential problems. We tried to be aggressive early in the game; they kind of picked that apart. We tried, a couple times, just a quick show and get out of there and they slipped out of it. Like I said, they had a good plan and we just had to make sure that we’re going to have Kalk out there defensively in space, we’ve got to take advantage on the other end, and I thought we found him a little bit more. We thought about zone, we talked about it at halftime, I kind of threatened them with a zone and I don’t think they wanted to do that very much.”

“We were better in the second half of guarding that dribble and our switches were cleaner and I thought our help was better. We got in there and knocked a few basketballs loose and forced a few turnovers and got out in transition.”

Marquette continued to have success attacking the basket in the second half, but the Jays held them to six points in the final four-plus minutes to pull away.

The three normal starters still in the lineup all had big games as Kam Jones, the team’s leading scorer, went off for 23 points (15 in the first half) on 9-of-16 shooting including 3-of-8 from deep. David Joplin matched his season high with 21 points on 8-of-13 from the field (2-of-3 from 3) and 3-of-4 from the foul line. Stevie Mitchell had success attacking the basket as well, scoring 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds.

However, the rest of the team scored 16 points on 6-of-22 shooting while Creighton got 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting from Farabello, Mason Miller and Jasen Green as Creighton’s depth made a difference against the short-handed Golden Eagles.

With the win, Creighton is sitting half a game back from Marquette in the Big East standings with the Golden Eagles set to host No. 3 UConn on Wednesday. Creighton doesn’t play again until next Saturday as the Jays close out the regular season at Villanova.

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