PREVIEW: Marquette travels to Omaha for matchup with Creighton

Sophomore+guard+D.J.+Carton+%2821%29+drives+to+the+hoop+against+UCLA+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29+

Sophomore guard D.J. Carton (21) drives to the hoop against UCLA (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

The Marquette Golden Eagles will travel to Omaha, Nebraska on Monday to face No. 9 Creighton for their first conference game of the 2020-21 season.

The Golden Eagles are 4-2 and are coming off a loss against UCLA Friday. The Bluejays are 4-1 on the season, losing to No. 5 Kansas Dec. 8. They are currently undefeated at home and have earned wins against North Dakota State, Nebraska-Omaha, Kennesaw State and Nebraska.

This matchup could very well be a defensive battle, with two of the top defenses in the BIG EAST going head-to-head. Both teams rank top five in the conference in opposing field goal percentage, defensive rebounds, blocked shots and scoring margin. With that, the Bluejays also have the highest scoring offense in the conference, averaging 85.2 points per game.

After losing guard Ty-Shon Alexander to a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns, junior guard Marcus Zegarowski has stepped into the spotlight for Creighton. The BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year is averaging 15.0 points, 6.0 assists and 3.6 rebounds through his first five games.

The frontcourt has been led by senior guard/forward Denzel Mahoney and junior forward Christian Bishop. Mahoney is averaging 15.0 points and 3.5 rebounds, while Bishop is averaging 13.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. Bishop also holds the highest field goal percentage in the BIG EAST with a stunning 84%.

First-year center Ryan Kalkbrenner has also been shooting the ball well for the Bluejays, converting on 22 of his 34 shot attempts. The 7-foot Missouri native has been in double-digits for three out of five games off the bench and is also averaging 4.2 rebounds.

Marquette has seemingly had a different player step up every night, last game it was sophomore guard D.J. Carton’s turn. The Bettendorf, Iowa product posted 18 points, five rebounds and four assists, while going 7-for-13 from the field. After transferring from Ohio State, Carton is averaging 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists with his new team.

Carton’s counterpart, redshirt senior guard Koby McEwen, is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 15.3 points per game. He has been a playmaker on both sides of the ball, averaging 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists to compliment his efficient scoring. After shooting 33% last season, McEwen has increased his shooting percentage to 50%.

These two teams met twice last season and in the latest matchup, Creighton was able to take home a 73-65 win. The Bluejays were only one of three teams to beat the Golden Eagles at home. The last time Marquette was at CHI Health Center Arena, Creighton dominated the Golden Eagles 92-75 on New Year’s Day.

Despite two losses at home over the past two years, the Golden Eagles still hold a substantial edge over Creighton historically. Marquette is 55-35 all-time against the No. 8 team in the country, a win percentage of 61%.

The Bluejays will look to win their 12th straight game at home dating back to last year, as the Golden Eagles will be searching for their first win on the road this season. The game will be telecasted on FS1.

This story was written by Nick Galle. He can be reached at nicholas.galle@marquette.edu or on Twitter @thenickgalle