No. 13 Creighton seeks its fifth straight win when it plays at Xavier on Saturday.
The Bluejays (17-5, 13-4 Big East) are known for a stellar offense but once again showed in a 77-53 win vs. DePaul on Wednesday that their defense is not to be overlooked.
They’ve allowed an average of 57 points per game in the past three games while holding opponents to 33.7 percent on field goals.
“Defensively we were really good,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said after defeating DePaul for a seventh win in eight games.
Xavier coach Travis Steele couldn’t say the same after the Musketeers (12-5, 5-5) lost 83-68 at Providence on Wednesday.
Providence made 53.7 percent (29 of 54) of its field goals, including 52.4 percent (11 of 21) on 3-pointers.
“It’s a trend and it’s a pattern we’ve seen game after game,” Steele said. “Our 3-point percentage defense is abysmal and we’re allowing guys to get way too comfortable, guys that can really shoot the ball.”
He went on to say he’s still unsure which players can give him the type of defensive effort needed to overcome a stretch in which the Musketeers have lost three of four games.
“We’re still looking for sure,” Steele said. “When you give up 83 points you’re looking, right? We’re not nearly good enough on that end and we’ve got to figure it out. I said to our guys after the St. John’s game and the UConn game: ‘We don’t have weeks to figure this deal out, we just don’t. We’re at the end of the season, we got two weeks left. We got to do it now. We’ve got to figure it out in days.'”
Steele used his bench sparingly in the second half against Providence because he didn’t like what he was seeing.
“We’re going to go with the lineups that I think are executing our defensive system as best as they can and they’re still not good enough,” he said. “We’re just going to roll with the guys that I think are able to execute it the best that I see in practice every day.”
His comments contrast with what McDermott sees from his players.
“For the most part, we’ve been a better defensive team this year, and as the season has gone on, they’ve become more connected,” he said. “Their ability to follow and trust the scouting report is better and I’ve got some veteran guys out there. They’re getting better at covering each other’s mistakes.”
He’s happy the Bluejays got past DePaul after a planned 10 days off left them rested but rusty.
“We got through that break,” McDermott said. “We got the win out of it and obviously we’ve got an important one on Saturday.”
Xavier will need to be at its best to end a three-game losing streak in the series, especially if starting guard Nate Johnson is unable to play again because of an injury to his left knee. He is averaging 11.4 points and 4.2 rebounds.
“This was something he was dealing with last year at Gardner-Webb,” Steele said. “Nate wants to play but we’re gonna make sure he’s safe and healthy first and foremost.”
–Field Level Media