The One that Got Away

March 24, 2009

img_6558

Box Score

The night started a little eerie as we made our way into the Qwest Center and the sirens were going off for a Tornado Warning for the area.  As that was happening, I was wondering if it was Kentucky since I remember the last post season they endured tornadoes at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in the SEC tournament.  It sort of made people wonder if the game would start as scheduled.  They finally had us all file into the arena and the storm had passed and the game started as scheduled.

The game was everything it was built up to be.  Both teams came out with a lot of energy and the crowd was loud the whole game.  The Jays played so hard and fought their way to a hard fought halftime lead.  Things were going their way.  They held Jodie Meeks to 3 points at halftime and sent Patrick Patterson to the bench early with 2 quick fouls.

P’Allen Stinnett, Antoine Young, Cavel Witter and even Booker Woodfox was denying Meeks the whole game, but it was a basket with about 10 seconds left that could have gone either way as a charge or a block.  Woodfox had the shot to win it at the end and just missed and the Wildcats escaped the Qwest Center with a 65-63 win.   The Jays had their chances to put the game away but missed 5-6 free throws in the last few minutes and it slipped away.

Booker Woodfox finished his Creighton career with 18 points in the game.  However, fans will still get to see him one more time as he participates in the 3-point contest on Final Four weekend in Detroit.  He will be missed.  Josh Dotzler the other Senior fouled out, but had 6 big assists and made some great plays in only playing 16 minutes due to the foul trouble.

There is a lot to look forward too for next year.  Justin Carter was all over the court getting 14 rebounds and 8 points and just seemed to be everywhere.  He had a great steal against Jodie Meeks late in the game, but missed both free throws to try and extend the lead.  However, his play this season has been great and there is a lot of great things to look forward to from him for next season.   Along with Carter, having P’Allen, Kenny Lawson, and all of the bench returning next season, this will be a veteran team and playing these type of games will prepare them to get excited about the seemingly tougher schedule next season.

Though we were disappointed with the loss, you can’t really complain about the effort.  This team has had some roller coaster times throughout the season, but you can tell how much they have grown as well.  Looking forward to next season.

Advertisements

Shaking off the cobwebs

March 18, 2009

Box Score

The Jays had not played basketball in over 10 days.  Bowling Green came off of their MAC tournament appearance over the weekend.  You sort of knew the Jays would come out a little flat against Bowling Green in tonight’s game.  But I didn’t expect 0-11 from the three point line in the first half compared to the Falcons hitting 6 of their first 8 from three.  I had dejavu going through my mind as I listened to the game tonight as the Jays shot only 34% in the first half while the Falcons shot 47%.

Yes, I listened to the game.  With other committments going on in between when the game started and when it ended forced me to give up my tickets to some other lucky people.  Lucky to see the second half go much better for the Jays.

I think my living room has a nice path as I paced back and forth in the last 5 minutes of the game and the Jays finally getting their first lead on Booker Woodfox’s three.  An important one as he only went 2-9 from three and 2-11 from the field.    However, P’Allen Stinnett rebounded nicely after a horrible performance in the Illinois St. game going 5-8 from the field, 8-9 from the field to finish with 18 points and passing the rock around with 6 assists.   Someone must have told him he needed to get to the charity stripe in the second half as that was when all his free throws took place.

Once again the energy of Antoine Young off the bench benefited the Jays immensely and kept them in the game with his 12 points and playing some good pressure defense.

After Darryl Clements started the game so hot and Nate Miller wasn’t as much into the game at the start, I just had a bad feeling.  Then when Clements cooled down then it was Bowling Green’s goal to feed the ball to Nate Miller and let him take it to the basket.  Points in the paint were even, points off of turnovers were even.

But in the end the Jays survive and they get to host the 7 time NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats at the Qwest Center on Monday night.  For me, this is something I thought I would never see.  Growing up in central Nebraska in the early 90’s, I wasn’t into Nebraska basketball that much and didn’t have a clue about Creighton since no one west of Omaha ever got news about the Bluejays.  But I loved watching Kentucky and how they revolutionized the use of the 3-pointer as an equalizer and destroyer of opponents.  I just loved the team.  And of course I was crushed at “the shot” that Dukie Christian Laettner hit in ’92 as I chronicled for Rush the Court.

But this time, I’m on the other side as Kentucky arrives in the Qwest Center Monday night.  Creighton fans better enjoy this because I don’t think you will ever see a team with this type of history and reputation ever come into Omaha again.  Kentucky would never play Creighton  here in a regular season game.  Just like UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina and UConn never will either.    If the Qwest Center isn’t sold out for this game, then I will be surprised.

Also this game will take center stage as it will be on ESPN and there are no other college basketball games going on (NCAA Tourney), so this is Creighton’s chance to show that they can compete with the Big Boys and let the nation know how our fans support this Bluejay Basketball Team.   However the Jays need to be a little more ready to play on Monday night, or Kentucky will dominate them.  2nd chance points and fast break points hurt the Jays tonight and with this athletic Kentucky team, you don’t want those stats to be the same.   This will be a good “eye” test for the Creighton program.    I’ll be there.  I hope everyone else is too.


Divine Intervention

March 7, 2009

Box Score

Whew!  That was close.  For those who decided to turn the channel midway through the second half of the game tonight missed out on what should not have come down to this, but a last second shot as time expired by MVC Player of the Year,  Booker Woodfox as the Jays escape to Saturday’s semifinal against Illinois St.

The Jays were pumped and the crowd was excited (and apparently many were being escorted out of the student section throughout the game) and the Jays took it to the Shockers flying around the floor, pushing the ball, a few spectacular dunks and the Jays run into halftime with a 13 point lead.  The Jays also held the Shocker’s JT Durley scoreless.

Then out from halftime, the Jays still look in control and were up by as many as 22 with 16:41 remaining.  OK game over, right?  Well according to Bill James his formula said that the Jays lead was 38% safe.  Well obviously that was pretty accurate.  Durley started getting involved, the Jays were getting outrebounded heavily (48-26 for the game) and the Jays were turning the ball over.

The Shockers picked away at the lead.  After several weird plays, referee conferences, water seeping from the ice beneath the basketball floor and check-in problems at the scorers table the Jays are up 2 with 12 seconds left.   Then out of no where, P’Allen Stinnett loses Toure Murry (who was 0-4 from three at the time) and he drains the three for Wichita to put them up one.   Jays have 9 seconds left to bring the ball down the court and Antoine Young drives and puts up a wild shot that bounces off the rim.  A Shocker gets the ball, but then it appeared to get knocked away from him and out of bounds, but the clock is still running and the buzzer sounds. Wichita appeared they escaped with a win.  Players and the cheer squad storm the court.

The referees go to the scorers table to see if there was indeed time left on the clock.  They discovered there was 1.9 seconds left.  After 3 timeouts (2 by the Jays and 1 by Wichita st.) Josh Dotzler was able to find Booker Woodfox but he fumbled the ball a bit, but still was able to dribble twice and hit a 15-footer to win the game.

Again the referees go to the scorers table to verify that the shot was good and after seeing that it was, the Jays escape with a 63-62 win.

The talk originally in the press room directly after the game between Matt Perrault, Travis Justice and Tom Shatel were all convinced that the Jays got more like 3 seconds to shoot the ball and that the clock was not started on time.  But as Mr. Shatel wrote later, he went with MVC commissioner Doug Elgin to watch the replay again from the truck with a stopwatch and indeed, the play only actually took about 1.5 seconds and Booker had the shot out of his hands with .4 seconds left.

Here is Booker’s reaction from the Postgame Press Conference that I took:

And as you can tell, Wichita St. head coach Gregg Marshall wasn’t too happy.   Here were his thoughts on the end of the game:

The good parts of the game was the first half and the first part of the 2nd half where Kenny Lawson played with a lot of fire and finished with 14 points.  P’Allen Stinnett really looked good in the first half and I really liked his leadership.  I was about ready to talk about how he was just doing everything for the Jays with his points assists and 4 steals in the first half.   But the bad part was that a bad second half with 7 turnovers.  I really had no idea until looking at the box score that Cavel Witter shot 1-10 from the field.

img_5999

Of course, Coach Altman had his reactions to the game.  First, that they had planned all along to get the ball to Booker:

Then what he is going to stress to the team and how they reacted to all of this:

But now there is no time to really dwell on tonight’s game.  A win is a win and the Jays now have to focus on the Illinois St.  Redbirds.  With my affiliation with Rush the Court, I will again be down at courtside tomorrow as we do RTC Live and live blog the Jays vs. Redbirds.  If you are not in the Scottrade Center and you are watching on TV at home or don’t have access to the game on TV, take a gander at RTC Live and participate in the live blog.  Also you can submit any questions or request info from the players and coaches that I can as for you and get answers.  See you tomorrow (I mean today a little later).


MVC Champs

February 28, 2009

Box Score

The Jays won today against Illinois St. and is MVC regular season co-champs with Northern Iowa after the Panthers survived against Evansville.  Though the Jays didn’t look the greatest as far as the stat sheet goes, they did what they needed to do and fought their way to victory and now takes a 10-game win streak into Arch Madness on Thursday.

Booker Woodfox led the Senior Day extraveganza with 20 points along with P’Allen Stinnett with 20 as well.  Woodfox still got his points even though the was draped all day by Illinois St.’s defense.  Stinnett got hot early in the 1st half  and then hit some free throws down the stretch on a day when the conference’s best free-throw shooting team only shot 16-26 from the free throw line.  Stinnett was 7 -10 from the charity stripe.

On the other hand Illinois St. was on fire from three today in the first half hitting 7-14, but then went only 3-10 in the 2nd half.  They finished with 5 players in double figures and still presents a matchup problem with the Jays in some sense.  The Jays were out-rebounded   by 18 and the Redbirds had 15 assists on their 25 baskets.

The key to this game today was the turnovers.  Illinois St. had 17 while the Jays only turned it over 8 times.  That turned into a 24-6 advantage by the Jays on points off of turnovers.

It was a question of whether Illinois St. wanted to win this game since it really didn’t mean anything for a conference or seeding standpoint, but we found out how bad they wanted this down the stretch as coach Jankovich was T’d up by the referees and the starters played for Illinois St. as much as they usually do.

Now as a result of Northern Iowa winning tonight and getting the number 1 seed in the MVC Tourney, the Jays are the 2nd seed and are on the same side of the bracket as Illinois St.  If things go as expected,  they could meet again in the semi-finals.   It appears the Jays will play the winner of Wichita St./Missouri St. in the quarterfinals on Friday in St. Louis and Illinois St. will play Evansville.

This should be an exciting MVC tournament.   I will be in St. Louis for Arch Madness giving some extra coverage for Rush the Court.  If you have any questions for the coaches and players for any of the teams or anything else you want to know about the MVC tourney that you might not have known about before, send me an e-mail or participate in some of the things that we will be doing during the MVC tourney.  More information to come soon as we get our plans together this week.  Stay tuned.


The Bench: The Equalizer

February 24, 2009

Box Score

You could hear the air slowly leaking out of the Jays balloon as they came out really flat with no energy sporting an almost double digit deficit in the first half and then being down 13 early in the second.  Then the Jays turned on the pressure and you could see a little spark.

The Jays scratched a clawed their way back into the game and a stretch of 6 key plays were the catalyst to get the Jays enough to get over the hump and to get a victory against Missouri St. on their Senior Night–something that had not happened in 19 years.

First the Jays decide to start to press and Justin Carter gets a steal and the ball over to P’Allen Stinnett for his only 3-pointer of the night.  Then on a loose ball, Kaleb Korver dives on the floor and in a situation where most times than not they call a jump ball, they actually called a foul on Missouri St.  Korver hits those two free throws. Then it was the Cavel Witter/Casey Harriman duo that made three straight 3-point plays that gave the Jays their first lead of the night.  On a night where Josh Dotzler and Antoine Young did not have it, Cavel Witter took over the point and dribbled his way to 2 straight drive and kick outs to a waiting Harriman who drilled the 3-pointers.  Then Witter kept it himself and drove to the basket for a three point play.  Finally with just over a minute to go, Witter and Harriman ran the same play as before and Harriman hit his third 3-pointer of the night.

The obvious gameplan for the Bears was to play high pressure defense and to take Booker Woodfox out of the game.  They pretty much did that as Woodfox only had 7 points and very few opportunities.  For a good 30 minutes the Jays were definitely out of synch waiting for the good things to happen.   The Jays however forced turnovers and turned the 19 turnovers by Missouri St. in to 20 points.    The Jays had many unforced turnovers with 8 in the first half, but then held on to the ball better the second half with only 5.

But the story of the game is the bench.  The Jays bench scored 35 of the 65 points.  Witter had 11 points,  Harriman had 10 points and Kenton Walker had 8.  But the key stat for Witter was his 6 assists to only 1 turnover.  Creighton needed a guy to step up and Witter was that guy.  He has played hard all year even in the tough times trying to find his role.  It paid off tonight.

Again the double post of Kenton Walker and Kenny Lawson produced with a combined 16 points and 10 rebounds.  The biggest thing about those numbers is that the shots Walker and Lawson made were from about 15 feet out, they were not able to get inside to score, so those were gutty shots and key points for them.    P’Allen Stinnett had 11 points but was somewhat quiet.

As I sat scoreboard watching the UNI/Illinois St. game, it was back and forth and went to a first overtime, and then a 2nd overtime and looked like it was headed to a third overtime, but then the ESPN Gametracker all of a sudden changed the time back to 1 second and UNI’s Adam Koch scored off a Johnny Moran miss all in one second.  That had to be a heck of a game.  It was a shame that game wasn’t on TV.

The Jays now head into Saturday’s game against an ESPN2 audience with the opportunity to either tie or outright win the MVC regular season championship.  Northern Iowa dodged a bullet tonight as they got what must have been an amazing last second shot in the 2nd overtime as UNI snuck out of Normal with the win and still a chance for them to get the MVC championship as well.   The Jays can only control what they can and a Senior Day win against Illinois St. is what it will come down to.  Then their hope is that UNI loses on their own Senior Day in Cedar falls.

Saturday’s game is a BLUE OUT.  Make sure to wear your Blue.


Making their Case

February 22, 2009
P'Allen Stinnett was off tonight, but Booker Woodfox was En Fuego

P'Allen Stinnett was off tonight, but Booker Woodfox was En Fuego

Box Score

Creighton had an opportunity to showcase themselves to the nation tonight and they did just that.  A fired up crowd provided an extra bit of energy and the Jays played with a lot of confidence in their 76-63 win tonight against George Mason

Booker Woodfox showed everyone why he is the leading 3-point shooter in the nation hitting 5-6 and shooting 8-10 from the field to lead the Jays with 22 points.

Everyone was concerned with George Mason’s Darryl Monroe, but it was the play of Kenny Lawson and Kenton Walker that shut down Monroe for the most part.  There was no sign of that soft play that was talked about earlier in the season.  A couple massive dunks by K & K and a couple of great blocks got the alcohol induced crowd even more excited.  Though Woodfox was 5-6 from three, the team was only 8-20 from three. It was the inside game in shooting inside the arc that led the Jays to the win.

Other than being down early the first few minutes of the game, basically Creighton led the whole rest of the way.   Antoine Young doesn’t look like a freshman anymore again trying to take over the game early in the second half finishing 4-4 from the field and 13 points.  Everyone that got into the game for the Jays  (other than Chad Millard who only played 2 minutes) scored.  The two team rotation where 5 guys go out and 5 guys come in really causes problems for teams but yet keeps the cohesiveness the team needs.  It looks like George Mason was just worn out by the end of the game.

The crowd tonight was great and the student section finally showed up.  Maybe all home games should be played at 8:30 instead of the normal 7PM start time.  I still think it would be blast to have the MVC play in the 11PM slot on Big Monday that was vacated by the West Coast Conference.  In reality it would only be about 1-2 games per season for each team.  The later time definitely draws more people and they are a lot more fired up.

The Jays don’t have time to pat themselves on the back and now have to focus on finishing up Conference play this next week.  First up is a road trip to Missouri St. where the Bears have not lost on Senior Day in 19 years.  Though Missouri St. is last in the league this game is definitely not a gimme.  Then it is the showdown with Illinois St. next Saturday this is most likely for the MVC regular season championship–which will again be on the ESPN family of networks and another opportunity to make their case to the media and the NCAA selection committee.   Finishing their last ten 10-0 would be convincing.   Should be fun.


The Pattern Continues

February 18, 2009

img_5716

Box Score

I’d like to think that I didn’t get a game recap posted on purpose because I was waiting for Northern Iowa to lose tonight…..but I didn’t.  After I saw this sign at the Creighton game last night, I started worrying about whether my TV would get the signal I needed since the analog TV stuff was supposed to be shut down last night.  But seriously, NET missed out on a great sign at the Qwest last night to advertise the analog shut down.  Oh well.

Actually between getting a bunch of boy scouts situated and settled for a basketball game, extra family in town going to the game with me, add in an exciting game and just a crazy day, I was just plain worn out to post anything last night.   Then to see how Northern Iowa lose another game at home, this time to Drake, it is just the topping on the cake and the Jays are now tied for 1st in the Valley.

The Jays game last night kind of ended up like I mentioned in the pre-game that every contest with Evansville at the Qwest had a pattern of single digit game, blowout, single digit game, blowout and this one was setup to be a single digit game.  Sure enough we got it.

It is a good thing Jason Hollsinger and Shy Ely are Seniors.  These guys seem like they have played forever and you could tell they really wanted to get a win at the Qwest Center before their careers were over since they were 0-3 coming into the game.  Hollsinger had 30 and Ely had 26 and shot a combined 18-32 from the field and 15-17 from the free throw line.  As much junk defense and different players on those guys that the Jays threw at them, those two couldn’t be stopped.

However, 2 performances by some unlikely heroes saved the game for the Jays.  The Freshman, Antoine Young, took over the game in the second half looking like a Senior taking it to the hoop and making some pretty impressive shots leading to a career high 15 points and only 1 turnover.  Cavel Witter, who has been for the most part quiet over this past month as Young has taken more and more minutes at the PG position, has been adjusting to the SG role and stepped up huge down the stretch.  His iceman free throw shooting helped keep the Jays going and had 15 points of his own.   P’Allen Stinnett, Kenny Lawson and Booker Woodfox contributed to the balanced scoring with 5 guys again in double figures.

The contest of HORSE ended up with a 3-point miss by Ely, a scramble reboun then timeout by Justin Carter and a break away dunk by Antoine Young to seal the game.  It wasn’t pretty, but it took Creighton to it’s 7th straight win and the pressure was on Northern Iowa tonight to win and keep the one game lead on the Jays.  However, they choked away the game and Jordan Eglseder missed two free throws with 5 seconds left and UNI lost 47-46 in an ugly offensive struggle and a lot of turnovers.

Creighton now is in a terrific position and if they can just keep winning, they can win the conference.  The last week of the conference season is going to be a fun one.  This whole thing is almost looking like a made for TV movie.  Let’s hope it has a great ending.