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Breaking Down the Friars vs. Creighton

David Duke – Photo Courtesy Providence College Athletics


Every game is a big one for the Friars these days and coming off a road win at Butler this weekend they have another opportunity to pick-up a resume-building win when Creighton comes to the Dunk on Wednesday.

While the Friars will rely on the positive momentum they picked up at Hinkle, stylistically, Creighton is a much different type of team than Butler.

The Bulldogs pride themselves on the defensive end of the floor, but Creighton owns the Big East’s best offense by the numbers.

Here’s a look at what Ed Cooley and his staff will be preparing their team for.

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Statistical Blueprint

Greg McDermott’s squad ranks 8th overall in the entire country in adjusted offensive efficiency, a metric which measures the points scored per 100 possessions against the average division I defense.

That efficiency is based on a few key factors, but to put it plainly, they are an outstanding shooting team who doesn’t turn the ball over.

Their 54.1% effective field goal percentage ranks 24th overall in the country and best in the Big East. They shoot nearly 38% from behind the three-point line as a team, which is again among the top 25 in the country and second best in the Big East behind Marquette. The shoot over 52% from inside the arc and knock down 74% of their free-throws.

As far as their ball-control goes, Creighton very rarely turns the ball over and even when they do, it is almost never a live-ball turnover, meaning opposing defenses aren’t able to create offense from their defense. The Bluejays’ turnover rate of 16.2% is 32nd overall in the country and third in the Big East behind St. John’s and Villanova, while opposing defenses have only a 7.1% steal rate, which is 18th best in the country and best in the Big East.

As for their other offensive characteristics, they play relatively fast (average possession length is 16.6 seconds long) and shoot more threes than about three-quarters of division I teams. Perhaps the only thing they don’t do well on that end is offensive rebound, and that is mostly by design, as they prioritize transition defense. *Although that was not the case against Providence earlier this month*

While their defense isn’t quite as powerful as their offense, it certainly isn’t a weak-link. They’re generally conservative on that end in that they don’t force a lot of turnovers or make a lot of plays in terms of steals or blocks, but they are exceptional in two main areas – they don’t foul and they defend the three-point line very well.

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Marcus Zegarowski – Photo Courtesy Creighton Athletics

Key Personnel

The game will be a homecoming for Marcus Zegarowski, who is in the midst of a breakout sophomore campaign, and will want to have a good showing in his return to New England. Zegarowski is a skilled and tough lead guard who stuffs all columns of the stat sheet. He leads the team in assists (5.0) and is one of their top scoring threats as well (16.1ppg, 46.5% FG, 73.8% FT, and 38.3% 3pt). He’ll attack in the open floor, off ball-screens, and is the spark that ignites their potent offense.

Ty-Shon Alexander, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, is the other half of Creighton’s dynamic duo. He’s both the team’s leading scorer at 16.5ppg and an equally versatile and potent weapon. An Oak Hill Academy (VA) product, Alexander was more of a wing in high school but has evolved into a true guard in recent years. He’s a good three-point shooter (39.4% 3pt) but equally dangerous attacking close-outs when defenders run him off the line.

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Ty-Shon Alexander – Photo Courtesy Creighton Athletics

The team’s primary weapon from behind the arc is Mitch Ballock, a 6-foot-5 junior. The southpaw is virtually automatic when he’s in rhythm and shooting an amazing 46.4% from behind the arc. He can stop-quick in transition, come off screens, or pull-up off the dribble. Roughly 75% of his field goal attempts this year have been threes and that means that even when he doesn’t have the ball, he has to be a primary concern for opposing defenses giving him great value as a floor-spacer.

The X-factor may be Denzel Mahoney, who went for a team high 21 points in the Bluejays win over Villanova this weekend. Mahoney, who started his career at Southeast Missouri State and missed the beginning of this season for personal reasons, has seen his impact grow in each of the 12 games he’s played in so far. He’s scored 13 or more points in each of the last six games and gives the team a fourth potent scoring threat to have to account for.

First Match-Up

Creighton beat Providence 78-74 on their home floor less than three weeks ago but it was a game that the Friars had a good chance to win. In fact, they were up five with 90 seconds to play and weren’t beat until both Alexander and Zegarowski hit heroic late game shots. David Duke was spectacular for the Friars in that one, scoring 36 points and relishing the opportunity to go head-to-head with Zegarowski again. Creighton did shoot 50% from behind the three-point line, but nonetheless the Friars still did an admirable check defending the arc, limiting them to 16 attempts when they normally average just under 25 per game. The offensive glass was also a key factor in that game as the Friars had 19 offensive rebounds to Creighton’s 24 defensive rebounds while Creighton had 15 offensive rebounds to the Friars 13 defensive boards.

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