No. 5 Musketeers let rankings go to their heads

Posted at 10:50 AM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 11:20:51-05

OMAHA, Neb. — One day after rising to their highest rankings ever, the Xavier Musketeers came crashing back to earth.

No. 5 Xavier sleepwalked through the first nine minutes and fell behind 21-4. They had their worst shooting night of the season, hitting just 1-for-21 from 3-point range, and lost stunningly to Creighton, 70-56 Tuesday night.

It didn't matter that the Musketeers fought to get back in the game late in the second half. Coach Chris Mack wondered what took them so long.

"I really felt like there was no readiness to play on our part," Mack said.

 "We didn't play with the urgency we needed to from minute one," he said. "Why is the game more important when you're down 17 points?"

The Bluejays (16-9, 7-5 Big East) used an early 16-0 run to take a 17-point lead and then held off the Musketeers after they pulled within five with 6 minutes left.

Xavier (21-3, 9-3) got 17 points from Jalen Reynolds and 14 from James Farr, but emerging star Trevon Bluiett was held to four points. Bluiett missed all six of his 3-point attempts as the Musketeers shot 30 percent from the field. They scored on just two of their first 16 possessions.

"Creighton always packs the paint and does an excellent job of flooding to help, and they know all your sets," Mack said. "But you've got to make some. I mean, you've got to make some. Geez, you've got to make some."

Meanwhile, the Musketeers had no defense for Creighton's 5-10 Maurice Watson. The Bluejays' undersized point guard roamed all game in the land of the giants, making shifty moves that rendered Xavier's big men helpless as he snaked to the basket for layup after layup.

The Boston U. transfer had a career-high 32 points.

"He's as good as we've played against all year," Mack said.  "He completely dominated and controlled the game."

Creighton led 47-29 when Watson, a full foot shorter than the 6-10 Farr, took him to the hole for a left-handed layup.

Xavier then went from man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone, and the Bluejays missed seven straight shots and committed a turnover as the Musketeers trimmed the lead to 10. The zone flummoxed the Bluejays until Watson drove the lane for an easy basket to make it 50-38.

"It's not easy attacking that 1-3-1 with their length and size," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, "and he was able to get in some crevices."

It was 55-50 with 6 minutes left, but Creighton was ahead by 10 points again when Watson swished a jumper from the top of the key and Cole Huff hit a 3 from the corner.

The Bluejays were without guard Khyri Thomas, who had an undisclosed injury. James Milliken started in his place and gave his team an immediate spark, scoring seven of Creighton's first 16 points.