OMAHA–(CU Athletics Jan. 23)–Three days after gutting out a grueling triple-overtime road win at BIG EAST co-leader Seton Hall, No. 17 Creighton men’s basketball dug deep to knock off Xavier, 85-78, before 17,195 fans at CHI Health Center Omaha.
Creighton (15-5, 6-3 BIG EAST) won for the sixth time in seven January games, while Xavier (10-9, 4-4 BIG EAST) had its three-game win streak snapped. Creighton is now 9-1 at home, while Xavier is 1-4 in road contests.
Creighton started strong, using a 17-6 run to take its largest lead of the first half at 22-15 before Xavier answered. The Musketeers countered with an 18-4 burst of their own as the visitors built a seven-point lead (33-26) with 4:26 left in the first half. Desmond Claude had eight of Xavier’s points during the surge. Creighton would use a 12-4 run to bring CHI Health Center Omaha to life and retake a 38-37 lead, only to see Claude’s final hoop give the Muskies a 39-38 lead at the break. Claude had 18 points in the first half on 7-of-15 shooting, offsetting a brilliant opening half from Creighton’s Trey Alexander (16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists).
Xavier made its first three shots from behind the arc in the opening minutes of the second half to go up 52-46 and still led 58-51 at the under-12 minute media timeout. That’s when Creighton senior Baylor Scheierman went to work. A three-pointer out of the timeout, followed by a strong drive that led to a free throw, narrowed the gap. He’d miss the second free throw but after two offensive rebounds, Scheierman drained another triple to give him seven points in 48 seconds and trim the Bluejay deficit to one at 59-58 with 10:32 left. The Jays regained their first lead of the second half on a mid-range jumper from Alexander at 60-59 with 10:10 to go.
After falling behind by three with 8:01 left, the Jays unleashed another flurry. Steven Ashworth beat the shot clock out of the media timeout before an Alexander steal and coast-to-coast drive gave CU a 65-63 lead. A Musketeer miss led a foul in the chase for the rebound, and an ensuing technical foul on the Xavier bench. Ashworth sank two free throws and Miller made a foul shot as the CU lead grew to 68-63 after an 8-0 run that took just 36 seconds.
Creighton took a 76-69 lead, matching its largest of the night to that point, on Scheierman’s trey with 4:06 left that led to another Xavier timeout. The Muskies got within two after a trey by Dayvion McKnight, only to have Scheierman’s step-back trifecta return the margin to five with two minutes remaining. After a stop, Alexander’s pull-up moved it to a seven-point lead with just over a minute left and Kalkbrenner hauled down the board after yet another stop. Creighton drained 4-of-6 free throws in the final 30 seconds to ice the win.
Alexander led Creighton with 27 points and added nine rebounds while Scheierman had 18 and Kalkbrenner scored 16 and snared nine rebounds. Creighton shot 49.1 percent from the field and made 11-of-28 three-point shots.
Xavier was paced by 20 points from Claude, who missed all eight of his field goal attempts after halftime to finish 7-for-23 from the field. McKnight contributed 20 points and Quincy Olivari scored 15. The Musketeers shot 40.8 percent for the game and made 13-of-14 free throws, in addition to winning the rebound battle 41-36 and scoring 17 second chance points after 14 offensive rebounds.
Creighton returns to action on Saturday at 6 p.m. for its annual Pink Out Game vs. DePaul.