Golden Eagles look to continue win streak in 2020 heading to Creighton New Year’s Day

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Photo by Jordan Johnson

Markus Howard (0) guarded closely by Creighton's Marcus Zegarowski (11) in the Bluejay's 66-60 upset of the then-No. 10 Golden Eagles March 3 at Fiserv Forum.

Marquette men’s basketball will have a challenging start to the new decade as it begins BIG EAST play Jan. 1 at Creighton, a team who beat then-No. 12 Texas Tech 83-76 Nov. 29 in the 19th Annual Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.

The Bluejays tied with St. John’s and Xavier for third-best in the league with a nonconference record of 11-2 and are 9-0 at home. Creighton is on a seven-game win streak coming off a 91-54 victory against Midland University Saturday night. Six Bluejays reached double figures, and Creighton was led by 19 points for both junior guard Ty-Shon Alexander and sophomore guard Marcus Zegarowski.

Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles went 10-2 in the nonconference and sit at sixth in the BIG EAST after a 106-54 rout Saturday over Central Arkansas. Senior guard Markus Howard recorded his fifth 30-point game this season and the 22nd of his career. It was the sixth time out of 11 games this season that Howard has reached at least 20 points and 54th time since joining MU. Nine other Golden Eagles scored in the match.

Creighton lost two guards to graduation from last year’s team that went 20-15 overall and 9-9 in conference play: 6-foot-5 Connor Cashaw and 6-foot-3 Kaleb Joseph. They started in a combined four games last season. Cashaw, a Rice University graduate transfer, shot 51% from the field and a team-high 50% from 3-point range. Joseph, a Syracuse University transfer, averaged 4.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game.

The Bluejays return five of their top six scorers and four starters from the 2018-’19 campaign including guards Alexander, Zegarowski and Mitch Ballock. Creighton will play without 6-foot-11 center Jacob Epperson, who broke his right leg in practice in October, and Davion Mintz, who averaged 9.7 points last season and has a high ankle sprain. CU head coach Greg McDermott announced after Saturday’s win Mintz will redshirt this season.

Creighton gained guards Shereef Mitchell, Jett Canfield and Jalen Windham, along with forward Nic Zeil as first-year players. Mitchell has made the most impact as he is fifth-best on the team for shooting at 44%. He also averages 19.4 minutes per game and is 12-for-15 from the free throw line.

Fun Facts

  • Creighton’s only two losses came against Michigan Nov. 12 and San Diego State Nov. 28. The Bluejays were picked seventh in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
  • Both teams are undefeated at home.
  • Marquette is 1-1 in away games.
  • This season the Golden Eagles are averaging 78.8 points per game, and the Bluejays are averaging 78.9 points per game.
  • Both teams are stout 3-point shooting teams. Marquette shoots 43% from beyond the arc and makes 10.2 threes per game. Creighton shoots 37% from beyond the arc, making 9.7 threes per game.

A Look Back 

  • The series between Marquette and Creighton started during the 1922-’23 season.
  • Before 2013-’14 and the BIG EAST realignment, the most recent meeting between the programs came in the 1998 National Invitation Tournament where Marquette won 80-68 in the opening round at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. MU made the quarterfinals that year.
  • The Golden Eagles lead the Bluejays in the all-time series 55-33. Marquette also leads the series in Omaha 23-20. Creighton has not won in Omaha since Valentine’s Day in 2015.
  • Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski is 7-3 against Creighton.
  • The last time MU traveled to Omaha, Sam Hauser’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer sent the teams into overtime. The Golden Eagles edged the Bluejays in a thrilling 106-104 win Jan. 9.
  • Marquette has won six of the last seven matchups, including a 102-94 upset in Omaha when Creighton was ranked No. 7 Jan. 21, 2017.

Key Players 

  • Zegarowski averaged 10.4 points and connected on 42.6% from three last season, making the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team. This season he is averaging 18.5 points and 4.7 assists per game and is the first Bluejay since 1984-’85 to average more than 15 points and 3.5 assists.
  • Alexander, last year’s All-BIG EAST Honorable mention was chosen to this season’s BIG EAST Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team. He leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game and is second for points (16.5).
  • Ballock leads Creighton with 38 3-pointers this season, which gives him 177 in his career. He is tied with Duan Cole for ninth-most threes in program history.
  • Howard, the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year, paces Marquette’s offense with 26.3 points per game. He has recorded 46 threes this season, leading the team shooting 48% from beyond the arc.
  • Theo John scored a season-high 12 points Saturday against Central Arkansas to move past Michael Wilson into sixth-best in program history with 121 career blocks.

Keys to the Game

  • Marquette: Eliminate Creighton’s 3-point shot and spread the floor on offense. The Bluejays are averaging nearly 10 threes per game, but the Golden Eagles’ defense this season has only allowed opponents to shoot 29.6% from three. MU has 15 assists per game and over the last three games the team is 64-35 in assists to turnovers.
  • Creighton: Contain Howard, the nation’s leading scorer, and hold Marquette to under 40% shooting. Creighton is 91-16 under McDermott when holding opponents to under 40% shooting. The Bluejays’ defense has held its past four opponents under 40% shooting from the field and limited Midland to 33% Saturday. This is the first time CU has done that in four consecutive games since Dec. 17-31, 2013, against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, California, Chicago State and Marquette.

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at isabel.comerford@marquette.edu or on Twitter @zoe_comerford.