It is a bit hard to encapsulate the feeling of watching this game without coming across as a bitter, negative person. Suffice it to say, in a game that was there for the taking for Xavier, they did enough of the things that their coach has continually pointed out they cannot do if they want to win games to not only lose the game, but look no closer to figuring out how to overcome their fatal flaws by the end of the contest.
The defense to begin the game was impressive, as the Musketeers slowed Creighton's trio of dynamic scoring guards and kept the Blue Jays well in check in the early going. Unfortunately, it was accompanied by such a fanatical commitment to shooting three pointers on offense, that Xavier had 17 attempts from deep by halftime, 6 more than they had in the entirety of the Villanova game. With Xavier hamstrung by both a reliance on and a frustrating inability to make outside shots, Creighton finally found some purchase on offense as Mitch Ballock was able to find his range and give the Blue Jays a 5 point lead at the break.
The second half was one of runs, the first of which belonged to Creighton as all three of Ballock, Zegarowski, and Alexander hit threes in the early going to grab a double digit lead and Xavier's defense started to creak. The Musketeers had a reply, though and Naji Marshall took control on offense while the defense chased Creighton's shooters off the line and Xavier cut the lead to 3 with just over 8 minutes to play and a chance to move to .500 on the line for both teams.
From there, the play by play reads like an autopsy for Xavier. The next 5 minutes were an 11-2 Creighton run which featured 6 points and 2 assists by Christian Bishop, who was able to take advantage of Xavier's approach to hedging on pick and roll action in the game's telling run.
The telling numbers from this game were Xavier's 5-26 from three as they attempted 3 more than Creighton, who came into the game shooting 7% better from behind the arc. Xavier was not without bright spots, as Naji Marshall had 21/9/7 and very nearly drug Xavier back into the game in the second half and Paul Scruggs added 19/9/2 and buried his lone three point attempt. Xavier simply shot too many threes and gave up too many second chances against a team that had their own offensive troubles, but found their gear for long enough to get a win at Cintas. Marquette awaits next and another chance to get it right beckons, I just hope Xavier starts taking them before it is too late.