Wojciechowski takes blame in loss to Creighton

Golden Eagles give away another lead in final minutes


Photo by Ben Erickson/[email protected]

A disgruntled Steve Wojciechowski walked into the media room at the BMO Harris Bradley Center Saturday night with a clear message following his team’s 65-62 loss to Creighton.

“I’m responsible for all this,” the second-year head coach said. “I’m responsible for getting the message across (to the players) so they do the things they need to do to win, because our guys are busting their butts. They’re trying and they work hard and they’re good kids, and we need to get more from it … I take full responsibility.”

In a turbulent game that involved 10 lead changes, the Golden Eagles held a 62-60 lead with under two minutes remaining. After a missed three-pointer by Creighton’s Isaiah Zierden, Marquette guard Traci Carter called timeout with 1:42 remaining. Wojciechowski said the team ignored the game plan to run a play for either Luke Fischer or Henry Ellenson out of the break, and Ellenson eventually forced up a three-point attempt. Creighton responded in transition with a go-ahead three-pointer by James Milliken, and the Bluejays never relinquished the lead.

“Out of a timeout, you have to try to do what we want to do,” Wojciechowski said. “If it doesn’t work, then that’s on me, but you’ve got to try to do it. Not doing it is not acceptable.”

Despite holding the Bluejays to just 31.4 percent from the field in the first half, the teams entered halftime tied at 25 mainly due to 11 Marquette turnovers.

“We talked about when we drove, you have to kick the ball against Creighton because when you drive against them, they send five guys to the ball,” Wojciechowski explained. “If you over-penetrate, you’re either going to lose the ball or get a charge. As a result of doing that over and over again in the first half, we had 11 turnovers. We should’ve gone into halftime up by five to 10 points.”

The second half was an opposite storyline, as the Golden Eagles only turned the ball over twice but allowed the Bluejays to score 40 points on 56 percent shooting, which included making their first five shots out of the halftime break. Wojciechowski benched guard Jajuan Johnson for most of the second half due to failed defensive assignments.

“Our defense was not good,” Wojciechowski said. “Our defensive game plan was to try to keep them out of transition. That’s where they score – they’re as good as anybody in our league at that.”

Henry Ellenson scored 16 points and collected eight rebounds on an efficient 7-of-13 from the field, although Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said his team expected Ellenson to put up more than 20 shots.

“There were times when we had to do a better job to get him the ball,” Wojciechowski said. “They switched a lot and we tried to take advantage of it and we were unsuccessful.”

Creighton point guard Maurice Watson Jr. scored a game-high 18 points to go along with 10 assists and five rebounds. Watson Jr. controlled the tempo for much of the game and was able to penetrate the paint often.

“(Watson)’s playing as well as any point guard in our league,” Wojciechowski praised. “He sets the table for those guys at such a high level.”

The win moves Creighton into 3rd place in the crowded BIG EAST at 8-5, while Marquette remains in 8th place at 5-8 and 16-10 overall. The Golden Eagles face a two-game road swing at DePaul and at Creighton before returning home for No. 1 Villanova on Feb. 27.

Other notes

  • The Golden Eagles shot just 60 percent (9-of-15) from the free throw line, where they shoot 71 percent on the season.
  • Marquette guard Duane Wilson missed a breakaway layup attempt with the Golden Eagles leading by one with 4:50 remaining. Wojciechowski said he didn’t blame the play for the outcome of the game.