Mon, 01 Mar 2021

No. 11 Creighton seeks to stop skid, hosts No. 23 UConn

Field Level Media
22 Jan 2021, 11:55 GMT+10

Creighton had a rather difficult time beating Connecticut when it was playing its best basketball of the season. Amid a rough patch, taking down UConn again might be tougher this time.

The No. 11 Bluejays look to avoid a third straight loss while trying to sweep the regular-season series from thevisiting 23rd-ranked, but short-handed, Huskies in a Big East contest on Saturday in Omaha, Neb.

Creighton (10-4, 6-3 Big East) won six straight from Dec. 17-Jan. 9, including a 76-74 overtime triumph at UConn (7-2, 4-2) when Damien Jefferson's jumper with 0.2 seconds left forced the extra session. However, since that unbeaten run, the Bluejays fell 70-66 at Butler in overtime and 74-70 to Providence at home on Wednesday.

A squad that averages 10 made 3-pointers, Creighton went 10-of-46 combined from beyond the arc in those losses. The Bluejays were also outrebounded in both contests, most notably 42-34 by Providence.

Now, while the Bluejays look to avoid losing three straight for the first time since February 2019, coach Greg McDermott has faith that his veteran group can respond sooner rather than later.

"When things are good, they're never quite as good as they seem," McDermott said. "When they're bad, they're never quite as bad as they seem.

"I trust these guys. I think they believe in each other. They know that we believe in them still. ... We've just got to keep our chins up and keep forging forward."

Creighton overcame a 41.5-percent shooting effort, including 7-of-27 from 3-point range, to win at UConn on Dec. 20. However, it held the Huskies to 35.8 percent shooting and held a 48-41 edge on the glass. Christian Bishop (11.5 points per game) had 19 points in the win while Denzel Mahoney (15.1 ppg) added 10 with 13 rebounds.

Star Marcus Zegarowski (14.3 ppg), who scored 11 at UConn, finished with 17 points against Providence after missing the previous two games with a hamstring issue.

The Huskies got a stellar 40-point performance from James Bouknight in the loss to Creighton but won't have their star available for the rematch. An elbow issue has kept Bouknight (20.3 ppg) out since Jan. 5, and according to the Hartford Courant, he's expected to miss several more weeks.

UConn prevailed in two straight games -- at Butler and DePaul -- without Bouknight but fell 74-70 to St. John's on Monday. The Huskies led by 14 in the first half against the Red Storm. However, the visitors chipped away and ultimately pulled out the win by owning a 42-35 second-half scoring advantage and holding the hosts to 40.0 percent shooting.

As UConn coach Dan Hurley knows, his Huskies, who have shot 40.2 percent in the last two games, must find a way to be effective offensively without their best player.

"That's a problem. It's going to be a problem," Hurley told the Courant. "We can overcome that problem."

That also means playing better defense after allowing their last three opponents to shoot 46.5 percent.

"We've got to play elite defense," added Hurley, whose team's game Wednesday versus Xavier was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within that program.

"We're not winning a game that's played in the 70s with some of the limitations we have, offensively."

UConn's R.J. Cole (10.6 ppg) had 12 points against Creighton, and a season-high 18 versus St. John's.

--Field Level Media

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