Monday, February 08, 2010

JTG 02/08/10 - New 'Jays, same as the old 'Jays?

They’re killing us, I tells ya. They’re just killing us.

The first of last week’s two games started off so well. The Bluejays came home against Evansville and, after struggling a little, pulled away for a convincing 84-71 win. In the win against the Aces, Creighton shot 66.7 percent from the floor.

No, that’s not a typo. 66.7 percent, a school record. Against anyone, that’s an impressive performance. Heck, in the gym by yourself practicing, that’s an impressive performance.

Now, admittedly, playing Evansville isn’t that far off from practicing in the gym by yourself. Evansville is 0-12 in Valley play, meaning my pick-up hoops squad has as many conference wins as the Purple Aces. Even so, given Creighton’s struggles from the field, a hot shooting night like that had to feel good.

It all looked so promising. Creighton had five players score in double digits. Josh Jones, filling in for suspended P’Allen Stinnett, had a career-high 14 points and looked to be rounding into form to help fill Stinnett’s role as a scorer. Ethan Wragge started to look like the three-point wizard the Bluejays need to keep up with the better teams in the league.

So, Creighton gets a convincing performance at home, shakes their shooting blues, and gets above the Mendoza line with their overall record. We wondered here if the win at Evansville was a turning point earlier in the season, so could it be that a convincing win over the Aces might be another turning point?

Um, not so much. Creighton went to Springfield and lost 70-52 to Missouri State, never leading in the contest. Well, allegedly they went to Springfield. Given the performance, it’s not entirely clear that Creighton ever got off the bus.

To steal a line from other outlets, it’s now clear that Creighton has had so many turning points this year that they’ve come right back to where they started.

It’s really hard to overstate how comprehensively trounced the Bluejays got by the Bears. They never led. They fell behind 25-11 (sound familiar to a certain game in Des Moines?) They shot under 40 percent for the game, close to thirty percentage points worse than their performance against Evansville. The Bluejays were 4-21 from three point range and 10-17 from the free throw line.

When the best you can find in the game recap is Creighton’s high-water mark of “trimming” Missouri State’s lead to 60-43, you know the game has gone poorly.

And it’s not like Creighton was playing a national power. Missouri State’s win bumped the Bears’ record to 16-8, and 6-7 in the Valley. Amazingly, Creighton is still ahead of Missouri State in the Valley standings.

Sure, there’s some bright spots. Jones got into double-digits in scoring again. Wragge managed to hit a three-pointer to keep an 11-game streak going. Kenny Lawson, Jr., had 15 points. But, once again, you saw a Creighton team that was tentative at the start of a road game, got behind early, panicked, and collapsed.

So, meet the new Bluejays, same as the old Bluejays. Creighton is back at .500 overall with a 12-12 record, 7-6 in Valley play. The Bluejays have two home games coming up this week, against Indiana State and Illinois State. The fact that the games are at home should give Creighton fans some hope, and a two-game winning streak would be a nice feeling.

But, remember, we’ve talked all season about how everything boils down to Creighton’s performance in the Valley tournament. Last I checked, the Valley tournament is in St. Louis, not in Omaha. Yes, the games this week are important. But until we see this Creighton team lace up their road shoes and have some success, there’s no reason to expect a different result at Arch Madness from what we’ve seen so far.

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