Saturday wasn't a good day to be a top-ranked team in college basketball, as the No. 9 Creighton Bluejays (23-5, 13-3 Big East) were the sixth Top 25 team to lose, falling 75-69 to the Xavier Musketeers (20-9, 10-6 Big East).
Creighton is known for its prodigious offense, but it was nowhere to be seen in the Cintas Center. As a team, the Bluejays shot 39.0 percent, down from their season average of 49.9 percent, which ranked fifth in the country.
Doug McDermott was the game's leading scorer with 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting. You could tell he tried to put the team on his back, as his 12 three-point attempts were the most of his career, per Rob Anderson, Creighton's sports information director:
Doug McDermott's 11 three-point attempts today are a career high. He's made 5, passing Ryan Sears for 3rd all-time at CU with 249.— Rob Anderson (@_robanderson) March 1, 2014
The senior forward added 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
Although McDermott showed up, his teammates did not, which was quite the departure from how the first matchup between these two schools ended, per Shannon Russell of The Cincinnati Enquirer:
McDermott had 27 points but no other Bluejay had double-figures. Major departure from Game One, where 4 others were in 2B figs. #Xavier— Shannon Russell (@slrussell) March 2, 2014
Ethan Wragge is Creighton's second-leading scorer on the season, but he was just 3-of-10 from the field and scored nine points. Austin Chatman and Jahenns Manigat combined to shoot 2-of-16 for five points.
It was a sloppy game from the Bluejays, best exemplified by the fact that they turned the ball over 15 times, about five more than their season average of 9.9.
Xavier's defense shackled Creighton's shooters, and on the offensive end, the Musketeers' stars more than did their part.
Semaj Christon led the team with 21 points, but it was Justin Martin who shone the brightest, as he scored 19 points and grabbed 16 boards. Perhaps more importantly, the junior forward added one selfie to the box score after the game, per Joe Danneman of Fox 19 in Cincinnati:
Justin Martin stopping for selfies on the way out: pic.twitter.com/FvWGmY2Pkt— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) March 2, 2014
All in all, Xavier beat Creighton in just about every facet of the game. The Musketeers were the far better shooters, had the rebounding advantage (34-32), turned the ball over fewer times and recorded fewer fouls.
Chris Mack couldn't have asked for any more from his team.
With the loss, Creighton falls to second place in the Big East, a half-game behind the Villanova Wildcats. With only two games left, the Jays may have a hard time getting back atop the standings.
This defeat could also hurt Creighton's possible seed in the NCAA tournament. While the school looked a lock for No. 2 earlier in the day, it could easily have dropped down to a No. 2 seed.
Xavier's win should mean that the Musketeers are a lock for the Big Dance, per CBSSports.com's Jon Rothstein:
Xavier gets a huge win over Creighton. Musketeers have clinched their place in the field of 68.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 2, 2014
Both Christon and Creighton head coach Doug McDermott think the Musketeers are already in:
Semaj Christon if X has done enough to make NCAA tourney: "I hope so, still more to do."— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) March 2, 2014
Creighton head coach Greg McDermott: I thought Xavier was in (the tourney) win or lose today.— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) March 2, 2014
ESPN's Joe Lunardi had them as a No. 10 seed in his most recent edition of Bracketology, and they'll only be going up, so this was a pivotal victory for the team.
Key Player Grades
Doug McDermott, Creighton: A-
On Saturday, you saw the perfect strategy for stopping Creighton. Sometimes the best means of attacking a great scorer is to take his supporting cast away from him. You might get burned, or his teammates could struggle, thus putting more pressure on said scorer and adversely affecting his performance.
When playing great defensive teams, Doug McDermott can't do it on his own. He didn't have a terrible game. If you're Greg McDermott, you'd be satisfied with him shooting 50 percent from the field and scoring 27 points.
After McDermott, though, the drop-off in production was massive and unsustainable for the Bluejays.
Semaj Christon, Xavier: A
With a player like Semaj Christon, Xavier could make some noise in the NCAA tournament. He's a genuine star, and he showed exactly why on Saturday. He wanted the ball in the critical stages of the game, and he wasn't afraid to take tough shots.
Christon knew what was on the line for the Musketeers in this game, and he didn't disappoint.
Justin Martin, Xavier: A+
Justin Martin can take as many selfies as he wants after a performance like that. He did everything out there, setting the nets ablaze and crashing the boards.
When you're playing a team as good as Creighton, you can't rely on one player to lead the team, which in this case would be Christon. Martin was the Plan B that the Bluejays didn't have for McDermott.
Without Martin, Xavier wouldn't have won this game.