Garrett Miley @GWMiley
Saint Joseph’s, coming off of a great shooting performance and excellent second-half effort against American, will take on the Creighton Bluejays Saturday afternoon on the road in Omaha, Nebraska. Last season, the Hawks upset Creighton at home, 80-71, in Michael J. Hagan Arena when the Bluejays were ranked 19th in the country at the time.
The Saint Joesph’s student section stormed the court as the final buzzer sounded to the tune of the pep band playing “Oh When the Hawks Go flying In!!”. Carl Jones dominated the matchup between the two schools last season. Jones led the Hawks with 29 points and added five assists and five rebounds. Ronald Roberts Jr. demonstrated why he would go on to win Sixth Man of the Year in the Atlantic 10 Conference as he came off the bench to spark the Hawks. Roberts scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds and threw down a nominee for dunk of the year when he dunked in transition over Antoine Young, a great defender for the Buejays.
This season, however, the Hawks must take on the 11th-ranked Bluejays away from the friendly confines of Hagan Arena.
“I’m anxious to see how we handle being on the road,” coach Phil Martelli said after Wednesday night’s victory over American. “I think it’s easier in college basketball to play at home because the noise is always for you. We’ll have no noise for us on Saturday.”
Creighton, like the Hawks, looks much the same as they did last season. The only difference in the Creighton starting lineup is the loss of Young, a void that is being filled by sophomore guard Austin Chatman, who is currently averaging 9.7 points per game for the Bluejays.
Creighton is coming off of its first loss of the season to an extremely underrated Boise State team (5-1) that also pushed 15th ranked Michigan State to the brink earlier in the season. While Saint Joseph’s won’t be able to spoil a perfect record for Creighton this season, Creighton should still not be taken lightly by anyone. The Bluejays have a few key victories in the early part of the season, including wins over Arizona State (5-1) and Wisconsin (4-3).
“Great team, well coached, and they’ve got some great players,” said sophomore guard Chris Wilson of Creighton after Wednesday night’s victory over American. “They have a potential All-American so we are going to have to be ready, they’re going to be really good.”
Creighton star forward and national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott scored 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds in last season’s loss to Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks will have to once again deal with McDermott this season.
McDermott’s ability to score both in the post and from outside makes him an extremely difficult player to match up with, and is one of the major reasons he a player of the year candidate who is averaging 21.0 points per contest this season.
“He shoots the ball really well,” forward Halil Kanacevic said. “He’s really efficient with what he does, he doesn’t miss a lot of shots which is something you’ve got to worry about. You’ve got to get him in uncomfortable spots on the floor, which is hard because he’s a versatile player.”
Kanacevic sat out the Hawks’ last game versus American with a back injury, but he says that is not going to stop him from being in the lineup against Creighton on Saturday.
“I’m definitely going to play Saturday,” Kanacevic said. “It’s definitely getting better, I’ve been getting a lot of treatment on it and I am looking forward to Saturday.”
McDermott stands at 6-foot-8 and has an incredible skill set for a player of his size. He has an incredible array of post moves when he gets the ball thrown into him down low, but McDermott can also put the ball on the floor and knock down a jump shot. Shot-blocking forward C.J. Aiken said he plans to try to affect McDermott’s shots as much as possible on Saturday afternoon.
“We are probably going to try to front him so he doesn’t get the ball,” Aiken said. “I’m going to play behind him and have my hands up at all times so I can try to affect his shot.”
Creighton guard Grant Gibbs, who is averaging 7.7 points per game and leads the team with 5.6 assists per game, is coming off of a season-high 17 points against Boise State. A senior, Gibbs is the most dangerous and most experienced member of the Bluejay backcourt and will likely be the responsibility of Saint Joseph’s guard Langston Galloway on Saturday afternoon.
Forward Ethan Wragge is averaging 11.4 points per game in only 17.6 minutes off the bench for Creighton and is shooting an impressive 55% from the field and 54% from behind the arc on the season. He’s efficiently providing the Bluejays with instant offense from the bench this year.
Both Jones and Wilson started for the Hawks against American due to Kanacevic’s back injury, and with Kanacevic back in the lineup it will likely be Wilson who returns to the bench and the senior, Jones, who will likely continue to be in the starting lineup for Saint Joseph’s.
Tip-off between Saint Joseph’s and Creighton is set for 3 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN3.