INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Creighton spent the last two weeks looking for ways replace their star point guard.
Coach Doug McDermott found the perfect solution Tuesday night.
Justin Patton, Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas all scored 15 points Tuesday night and No. 22 Creighton regained its 3-point shooting touch as it ran away from No. 16 Butler, 76-67.
“This is a huge win for us given the events of the past couple of weeks,” McDermott said. “We’re still trying to find ourselves in some regards, so to come in here and get this victory is a real shot in the arm.”
Initially, the Bluejays (20-3, 7-3 Big East) struggled without Maurice Watson Jr ., who tore the ACL in his left knee Jan. 16.
But after losing three of their previous four and sliding from the top 10 almost out of the Top 25, Creighton has reverted to its early season form.
It has won two straight and moved into second place in the conference standings after going 13 of 21 from 3-point range, a season-high 61.9 percent.
That’s not all.
They were 55.8 percent from the field, limited the usually high-scoring Bulldogs to just 40.0 percent and allowed only 2 3s in the second half.
“We were never going to fold, we never doubted ourselves,” Patton said after scoring 12 points in the second half. “We just had to learn everything all over again and it looks pretty good right now, if I do say so myself.”
The Bulldogs certainly can’t quibble with Patton’s assessment.
After losing the first meeting and playing catch-up most of the first half Tuesday, Butler scored the first five points of the second half to take a 38-37 lead.
Then Creighton went on a 17-4 run to take a 54-42 lead with 14:05 left. After the Bulldogs cut the deficit to five, the Bluejays quickly extended the margin to double digits and Butler couldn’t get closer than seven the rest of the night.
Kamar Baldwin scored 14 points and Kelan Martin added 11 for the Bulldogs (18-5, 7-4), not nearly enough to avoid their first back-to-back losses of the season.
“I never felt like we defended with any type of purpose in the Georgetown game,” coach Chris Holtmann said after Butler’s second straight home loss. “And I never felt like we did in the Creighton game.”
Creighton: After experimenting with lineups and combinations, McDermott and the Bluejays seem to have rebounded. They have their second sweep of Butler in three seasons and some momentum heading into the weekend.
Butler: A week ago, the Bulldogs looked like they were on the verge of cracking the top 10. Now, they are in a funk – largely because of poor defense. Expect Holtmann to spend most of his time over the next week looking for solutions.
Traditionally, Butler has ranked among the national leaders in scoring defense. Not lately.
Three days after allowing Georgetown to shoot 63.8 percent from the field and 72.7 percent in the second half Creighton was almost as proficient including shooting 60 percent in the second half. Butler’s last two opponents have shot over 51 percent in each of the four halves are a combined 21 of 43 on 3s.
“We’ve been atrocious, atrocious. How can you not be concerned when you look at the numbers?” Holtmann said. “We can’t guard inside, we can’t guard outside, we can’t keep teams off the free throw line, we can’t guard in transition, we can’t keep the ball in front of us.”
This was not just another win for the Bluejays.
Creighton improved to 4-1 against the Top 25 this season and 5-69 all-time in true road games against ranked teams. The Bluejays finished January with their third win of the month over a ranked opponent, their third straight win over a Top 25 foe and their first season sweep of Top 25 team – all school firsts.
Creighton: Returns home Saturday looking to sweep Xavier.
Butler: After a weeklong break, the Bulldogs return to action Feb. 7 at Marquette.