NCAA Basketball

No. 17 Creighton keeps pushing for Big East title at DePaul

The Big East regular-season championship would be a major accomplishment for Creighton. Head coach Greg McDermott would be just as satisfied if the 17th-ranked Bluejays can make it through their schedule without any disruptions.

They've been one of the few teams in the conference that hasn't experienced at least one postponement or cancellation due to COVID-19 issues. Creighton (12-4, 8-3 Big East) currently sits second in the standings behind Villanova, which is undefeated in conference action but has played only five Big East games due to postponements.

Creighton is scheduled to play DePaul in Chicago on Saturday.

"It's one of our goals, but to be honest, this season you can't get too caught up in that stuff," McDermott said of a Big East title. "Just be happy that you're playing. There's a lot of teams across the country and certainly some teams in our conference that have been far less fortunate than us in terms of their ability to play games. ... So, while I'd love to win a conference championship, if somebody goes 9-1 and we go 15-5 or whatever it is, I'm not going to cry."

The Bluejays stayed within striking distance of the Wildcats with a second-half rally to down Seton Hall 85-81 on Wednesday. They trailed by as many as 16 points and didn't take the lead for good until Mitch Ballock's 3-pointer with 41 seconds left.

McDermott's teams rarely play zone, but Creighton used that defensive scheme to slow down the Pirates, who scored 54 first-half points.

"Crazy game," McDermott said. "We were not ourselves the first half defensively. I didn't recognize that team, but we kept fighting, we kept plugging. We don't practice the zone a bunch, but the guys were really good in it. Then we executed some stuff, and guys made some great reads on the offensive end."

Ballock was the unlikely offensive star. He made 11 of 17 field goal attempts, including seven 3-pointers, while racking up a season-high 29 points. Despite scoring a total of 12 points in his three previous outings, he has contributed three or more assists in the last five games.

"Mitch has been a little more aggressive the last three or four games, which has been great to see," McDermott said. "Good things happen when he does that. We needed an elite performance from somebody (Wednesday) because of the way we played defensively in the first half, and certainly Mitch gave it to us."

DePaul (3-6, 1-6) is last in the Big East. The Blue Demons lost 81-68 to St. John's on Wednesday, but they won their first Big East game in their previous outing at Marquette, 68-61.

DePaul was held to 38.6 percent shooting and committed 18 turnovers against the Red Storm.

St. John's scored 30 points off those turnovers and shot 46.2 percent from the field.

"I thought (after) Saturday's game that we could build off of some of that momentum in key areas," DePaul head coach Dave Leitao said. "As I've said before, we've got to be able to hang our hat on defending and rebounding and playing as hard as we can."

Charlie Moore has scored 21 points in each of the last two games and is averaging a team-best 14.7 points per game for DePaul.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 28, 2021

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