Tuesday, February 16, 2010

JTG 02/16/10 - Deja Blue

Sorry for the tardiness of the post. Apparently the Gods of Winter and the Iowa Department of Transportation weren't in any hurry to have last week's Creighton performances recapped, as I was stuck in Sioux City until this afternoon.

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This Jay-Talking Guy thing isn’t all that tough. I’ve been able to write the same column for weeks now.

Again, the Bluejays came into the week after a split, one win and one loss. But with both games for the week at home, the hope was that Creighton could get a winning streak going, gain a little momentum, put the .500 line farther behind them, and get ready for a run in the Valley tournament.

The week certainly started out in promising fashion. Indiana State was in town to start the week, and Creighton had an opportunity to pay the Sycamores back for handing CU their opening loss in the conference season. The Bluejays took care of business emphatically, beating Indiana State 65-52 in a game that probably wasn’t even as close as the score would indicate.

At the start of the game, Creighton was a little outside-shot-happy, putting up three point attempts on 19 of their first 31 shots. Given that they only made five, it appeared that a re-thinking of the strategy was in order, even though Creighton had built a fairly comfortable lead.

In the second half, though, the Bluejays went inside to Kenny Lawson, Jr., who got his first double-double of the season. The fact that Indiana State was down to eight players due to injury coming into the game made a punishing inside strategy work as well.

So, Creighton avoided a Sycamore sweep, and had a chance to put a winning streak together and drag themselves up the standings as the Valley conference tournament nears. Another home game, against 17-8 Illinois State, would be a good test for how far Creighton has come throughout the conference season.

Illinois State 67, Creighton 63.

It’s not just the loss, although CU dropping to fourth in the conference is certainly problematic. It’s the staggering similarity of the loss that makes it so disturbing.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair, which boded well for Creighton. The Bluejays took a 53-50 lead with just over eight minutes to play, and looked poised to pull away and get some real forward momentum moving towards March.

Illinois State had other ideas. Creighton only scored one field goal the rest of the game, from a combination of bad shot selection and a lack of confidence that is inevitable from the arc of the season. Still, impressively enough, Creighton’s free throw shooting left them within striking distance as the contest came to a close.

Osiris Eldridge, Illinois State’s talisman (who can’t graduate soon enough, if you ask me) missed a second free throw attempt leaving Creighton two points down with 15 seconds left to play. The stage was set. If Creighton could even tie the game, the Qwest Center crowd was waiting to explode and give the Bluejays the lift they needed to win in overtime. And if Creighton could hit a buzzer-beating winner against the Redbirds, it’s hard to measure what that could do for the Bluejays’ confidence level.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know. The Bluejays got stuck in the corner after Kaleb Korver turned down a decent three-point look, and the ball went off Kenny Lawson’s leg out of bounds.

Yep, an unforced turnover on the final possession when Creighton had a shot to win the game. If you’re having flashbacks about Michigan, welcome to the club. At least we know the team is able to make up for the absence of suspended P’Allen Stinnett in one category.

So, Creighton is back to where they started, a .500 club (13-13) and one game over the Mendoza line (8-7) in Valley play. Currently, the Bluejays sit in fourth place in the Valley, tied with Bradley. Unfortunately, the road for the week ahead is a little bumpier. The Bluejays head to Cedar Falls on Tuesday to play league-leading Northern Iowa, then come home on Saturday for their BracketBuster game against Loyola of Chicago. For those of you looking for the BracketBuster game on ESPN, keep looking. ESPN has decided that this year’s Bluejay squad isn’t ready for television.

That’s understandable, I suppose. After all, it feels like Creighton has been in re-runs for about a month now.

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