In what was supposed to be a close battle of elite Big East teams, No. 8 Creighton instead cruised to a 75-64 victory over No. 12 Butler.
The Blue Jays led by as many as 25 points in the second half before taking their foot off the gas, but they did more than enough to earn one of their biggest wins of the year.
Maurice Watson Jr. was in complete control of the game, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
This first-half pass highlighted his vision on display, via FS1:
Goosebumps watching that Omaha crowd! If you haven't watched @BluejayMBB yet, you're missing out! #BIGEAST https://t.co/31tgCF64V22017-1-12 03:01:19
Khyri Thomas had a big showing as well with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Interestingly, the only Creighton starter who didn't reach double figures was leading-scorer Marcus Foster.
Butler leading-scorer Kelan Martin had a rough night, totaling seven points after being shut out at halftime. He shot just 3-of-14 from the field in the loss. Andrew Chrabascz also managed only two points on 1-of-5 shooting in a disappointing effort.
As a team, the Bulldogs made just eight of their 25 attempts from beyond the arc and 41.3 percent from the field.
Other than 17 Creighton turnovers, this was a dominant effort throughout the game for the home team.
Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald provided another interesting note in the win:
Jon Nyatawa @JonNyatawa
Creighton out-rebounded Butler! 34-30. It's the first time since Dec. 9 that the #Jays have won the rebounding battle2017-1-12 04:07:09
After a back-and-forth start to the game, it didn't take long for Creighton to take control. A 13-2 run helped create separation early on, turning a 10-9 lead into a 23-11 advantage.
David Woods of the Indy Star summed up the action:
David Woods @DavidWoods007
This is an utter mismatch right now. #Butler shooting 29% (5-of-17) and trails Creighton 23-11.2017-1-12 02:37:51
Justin Patton was a big part of the early success, throwing down dunks inside and even showcasing some shooting touch, via Creighton Basketball:
Creighton Basketball @BluejayMBB
Justin Patton called bank. Everyone heard it. 🏦💵 #GoJays #TakeFlight #BIGEASThoops https://t.co/J4rMWH3uFC2017-1-12 02:41:14
The big man had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half.
Creighton continued to pile on as the game progressed, outplaying the Bulldogs on both ends of the court. By halftime, the Blue Jays had made 62.1 percent of their shots while earning a 47-27 advantage.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs struggled to make anything while Martin remained ice cold. Eric Olson of the Associated Press broke down the shooting slump:
Eric Olson @ericolson64
Butler's Kelan Martin is in a serious shooting slump. He's 0 for 8 tonight and 17 of his last 60 (28.3 pct).2017-1-12 02:57:44
Butler hoped for more luck in the second half but couldn't do much to cut in to the lead with the Blue Jays continuing to make shots.
Tricia Whitaker of CBS4 Indy provided her thoughts on the Bulldogs:
Tricia Whitaker @TriciaWhitaker
Needless to say, Butler does not look like #Butler tonight. Down 21 to #Creighton. 12 minutes to go.2017-1-12 03:32:27
Martin, who sat for the first seven minutes of the second half, finally got his first basket with less than 12 minutes remaining. He then followed that up with a few more baskets to help keep things competitive.
Still, Creighton refused to yield with Watson especially doing his job to carry the offense.
Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore noted the impressive effort:
CJ Moore @CJMooreBR
Mo Watson has scored 12 of 14 for Creighton. Putting on a show with his shots in the paint.2017-1-12 03:44:39
The Bulldogs made some shots late to make the final score look closer than it was, but this was a one-sided affair that showcased just how good the Blue Jays can be when playing to their ability.
Creighton will have a bit of a break next game with a matchup against Division II Truman State before going on the road to take on No. 15 Xavier on Monday.
Butler will have Xavier right away at home Saturday in another battle that could help cause separation at the top of the Big East.
Defense was key for Creighton Wednesday night and head coach Doug McDermott credited one of his players for great individual defense.
"Khyri Thomas once again just did a terrific job on Kelan Martin," McDermott said in an interview with FS1, via the team's Twitter account. "He's one of the premier scorers in our league, he had Rodney Bullock of Providence and did a great job on him, Shamorie Ponds at St. John's, he did a good job on him and he has Kelan Martin tonight and forces him into a tough shooting night."
Meanwhile, Butler coach Chris Holtmann did not hold back his praise of the Blue Jays after the loss.
"I think they can play in a Final Four," he said, per broadcaster Kim Adams. "I think they can compete for a National Championship."
If Creighton continues to play like this, it can beat just about anyone in the country.
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