Creighton’s jump shots weren’t falling, and CU lacked answers defensively against a balanced San Diego State squad. The Jays were steamrolled as a result Thursday night.
The Aztecs (7-0) used an 18-0 run late in the first half to build a 40-25 halftime lead. They buried Creighton from there, cruising to an 83-52 blowout win in the Jays' first game of the Las Vegas Invitational.
The 31-point defeat marked the most lopsided CU loss in 18 years.
“They got away from us,” coach Greg McDermott said during his postgame radio interview on 1620 AM KOZN. “And obviously if you give a team like that that kind of lead, it’s really difficult to come back from.”
Creighton (4-2) will return to action at 9:30 p.m. Friday when it faces No. 12 Texas Tech, which was upset by Iowa on Thursday.
The Jays have a lot to fix. They shot 38.5% from the floor against San Diego State. The 52 points marked the fewest single-game total for CU in three seasons.
Creighton suffered through a six-minute scoring drought before halftime that ultimately proved to be the decisive stretch. It missed all eight of its field goal tries, went 0 of 3 from the free-throw line and turned the ball over four times. The Aztecs turned a two-point deficit into a 38-22 lead.
But even after the break, the Jays still struggled to attack SDSU’s length and physicality in the halfcourt. They never got any closer than 12 points.
CU's top two scorers, Ty-Shon Alexander and Marcus Zegarowski, combined to make just six of their 27 shot attempts. That duo committed a total of seven turnovers, too.
Alexander, who finished in single digits just five times last season, ended with eight points. Zegarowski missed nine 3-pointers and scored seven points. Junior Mitch Ballock led his team with 12 points.
“Ty-Shon, Marcus and Mitch — when two of the three of those don’t have a good night, it’s not going to be pretty for us,” McDermott said. “Especially against the physical frontline that San Diego State had.”
The Aztecs started two 6-foot-10 forwards, Nathan Mensah and Yanni Wetzell. And those two kept the small-ball Jays from getting anything easy inside. SDSU blocked four shots in the first half alone. So Creighton's guards often just settled for jump shots, and at least early on, most of those were clanging off the rim.
The impact of the height difference was just as distinguishable on the other end, too. The Jays had to bring a double team on most of SDSU's post touches, and they were regularly burned by pinpoint passing in those scenarios.
When San Diego State wasn’t posting up the big men, its guards were dribbling downhill and fearlessly attacking the paint. If CU did collapse its defense to cut off the driving lanes, the Aztecs just kicked the ball out and made the Jays pay from deep — SDSU finished 11 of 18 from 3-point range.
It was apparent by the middle of the second half that Creighton had no answer.
The Aztecs missed their first four shots after halftime. But then they knocked down 15 of their next 19 field goal attempts, including all seven of their 3-pointers. Four San Diego State players finished in double figures.
“They were really, really good. We weren’t very good at all,” McDermott said. “We’ve got to look in the mirror and figure out what we’ve got to change before (Friday) night at this time.”
That will be a real challenge, because the Red Raiders traditionally boast one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. They suffered a 72-61 loss to Iowa Thursday, but they held the Hawkeyes to 41.1% shooting. Texas Tech had the most efficient defense in the country last year, holding opponents to 0.88 points per possession, according to Ken Pomeroy’s data.
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