No. 10 Creighton beats Pirates, 'Nova showdown is next
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 29, 2016 01:17 PM
Maurice Watson Jr. and the rest of the Bluejays set of a highly-anticipated showdown against defending national champion Villanova after taking care of Seton Hall to keep their unbeaten record. (AP Photo/John Peterson)
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Creighton can finally turn its attention to No. 1 Villanova.
The 10th-ranked Bluejays beat Seton Hall 89-75 in their Big East opener Wednesday night. Now comes the game that's been the talk of the fan base since the conference schedule was released in September.
''You're playing the No. 1 team in the country in a New Year's Eve showdown,'' point guard Maurice Watson said. ''This is what you dream for, playing the No. 1 team at your house in front of your fans and to come out and start your Big East play on a roll.''
Creighton (13-0, 1-0) is off to its best start since the 1942-43 team opened 16-0, and the game against Villanova will match two of the nation's remaining unbeaten teams.
Watson had 21 points and 10 assists against just two turnovers against Seton Hall, and four other Creighton players scored in double figures.
Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton had 17 points apiece, with Patton also grabbing nine rebounds in his matchup against one of the Big East's premier big men in Angel Delgado.
Marcus Foster added 15 points and Cole Huff had 13 for the Bluejays, who outscored the Pirates 42-26 in the paint and converted Seton Hall's 18 turnovers into 27 points.
''They're really hard to play against, and the first 10-12 minutes I thought were indicative of how the game was going to be,'' Bluejays coach Greg McDermott said. ''It was such a grind it out - every possession on both ends. We finally got loose in transition.''
Khadeen Carrington led the Pirates (10-3, 0-1) with 27 points and Desi Rodriguez, who came into the game 6 of 29 from 3-point range, made a career-high five 3s while scoring 24 points.
Creighton had lost the last two meetings with Seton Hall at CenturyLink Center, and the Bluejays also lost to the Pirates in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals last March.
The Pirates lost for the first time in five games against Top 25 opponents and for the first time in five games this season when they trailed at halftime.
''You can't turn the ball over 18 times in this league and expect to win,'' Pirates coach Kevin Willard said. ''We only had one turnover the first 8 minutes of the second half and cut it to five, and then we had a couple more turnovers that gave them easy baskets. We gave them a lot of momentum.''
Watson went to the basket for a reverse layup to end a field goal drought that lasted nearly 4 minutes at the start of the second half and stopped Seton Hall's 10-1 spurt that wiped out most of the Pirates' 13-point halftime deficit. Watson had at least 10 assists for the sixth time this season.
''I think that was probably my best game in performance, probably next to Washington State. I only had one turnover that game. That's how I judge my games,'' Watson said. ''I think I did a good job of spreading the ball around tonight. I had to pick and choose when to shoot and when not to get overzealous.''
Seton Hall: The Pirates couldn't keep up once Creighton's transition game got going, and they gave up a season high for points. Delgado got off to a slow start and picked up his third foul early in the second half but was able to post his seventh straight double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Creighton: The Bluejays didn't have to knock off any rust in their first game in eight days. They scored on nine straight possessions and shot 56.7 percent during a 50-point first half, and they had an answer every time the Pirates started to threaten in the second.
BREAKOUT FOR DESI
Creighton's defensive plan was to double-team Delgado and let Rodriguez shoot from the outside. Rodriguez was 4 of his last 23 on 3-point attempts but ended up 5 for 6 on 3s against the Bluejays.
''Any shooting ills that Desi Rodriguez had, we seemed to have taken care of those,'' McDermott said. ''From scouting reports, he hasn't been shooting it well. We were going to live with those. Once he got started, we had a hard time stopping him.''
Seton Hall hosts Marquette on Sunday.
Creighton hosts No. 1 Villanova in a battle of unbeatens on Saturday.