NCAA Men's Basketball

No. 17 Xavier looks to get back on track vs. Creighton

Coming off its first Big East Conference loss of the season, Creighton travels to Cincinnati to face No. 17 Xavier on Saturday afternoon.

Both teams have only played twice this month as the pandemic continues to affect the league schedule.

Both have already played Villanova twice this season, with Creighton (10-4, 2-1 Big East) splitting the season series and Xavier (12-3, 2-2) losing both games.

And both teams come into this contest having lost to the Wildcats in their previous game.

A more physical and disciplined Villanova team blasted the Bluejays 75-41 on Jan. 5, handing Wildcats head coach Jay Wright his 500th career win.

"Their defense was really good. We got second looks at our place and we didn't get many tonight," Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said. " We looked like a bunch of young kids tonight."

McDermott was measured in his analysis of his team's performance and how they go forward. "Lots of lessons this year and everything's a lesson. This film will be a great learning experience. ... We can look back at our preparation and figure out what we can do differently."

Creighton crushed Villanova, 79-59, on Dec 17 in Omaha, Neb.

Xavier, meanwhile, was unable to hold build on an eight-point halftime lead in its first meeting with the Wildcats, falling 71-58 on the road on Dec. 21.

Xavier's inability to adjust against Villanova's aggressive defense stifled ball movement and led to poor shots and turnovers.

In its home rematch against Villanova on Wednesday, an 11-point halftime deficit was too much to overcome for the Musketeers as they lost 64-60. It was Xavier's first home loss this season.

The Wildcats led by 17 in the first half before Xavier fought back to tie the game 56-56 with 2:17 left on the clock.

"I told our guys, you can't dig yourself a hole against a really good team," Musketeers coach Travis Steele said.

Xavier owns a plus-12.5 points per game scoring margin while Creighton comes in with a much narrower plus-4.1 scoring margin.

Four players are averaging in double figures for the Bluejays. Ryan Hawkins (13.4), Ryan Kalkbrenner (12.3), Ryan Nembhard (12.1) and Alex O'Connell (11.9) account for 70 percent of Creighton's 70.4 scoring average.

Hawkins also leads the team in rebounding, hauling down 7.4 caroms per game, primarily on the defensive end.

With a minus-26 turnover margin in its four losses, Creighton continues to fumble scoring opportunities.

Xavier's overall balance is evident on offense, as seven different players have led the team in scoring this season.

Defensively the Musketeers are plus-8.5 in rebounding margin per game and lead the Big East in field goal percentage defense (.394).

The Musketeers are capable of scoring from the backcourt and frontcourt. Nate Johnson leads the team with 12.7 points per game thanks to 46.4 percent shooting from 3-point range. Jack Nunge averages 12.1 points to go along with 7.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 13, 2022