Marquette upsets No. 9 Creighton in Omaha

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Marquette guard D.J. Carton (21) defends Creighton guard Marcus Zegarowski (11) (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Ten days after Marquette took down then-No. 4 Wisconsin at Fiserv Forum, the team stunned No. 9 Creighton 89-84 Monday night in the Golden Eagles’ BIG EAST opener. This is MU’s second Top 10 upset in less than two weeks.

“We took care of the ball,” head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “We did a really good job of attacking the paint. … That’s who we have to be.”

Marquette’s win breaks the Bluejays’ 21-1 record and 11-game win streak at home, which dates back to last season at CHI Health Center Omaha. The Bluejays have not lost at home since Jan. 7 against Villanova. The last time Creighton was a top-10 team and lost was back in 2017 to Marquette.

“Big time road win, top 10 opponent, first game of conference play, our locker room was very excited to get that win,” redshirt junior Greg Elliott said. “We let the ball find the best shot. Nobody was thinking they had to do it themselves or go be the man. … We all made plays to help our team win.”

Although the Golden Eagles were down nine points at the half, the team battled back in the last 20 minutes to take down Creighton by five points in Omaha.

After not scoring since a 3-pointer at the 15:53 mark, sophomore guard D.J. Carton scored all six MU points in the first four minutes after halftime to bring the Golden Eagles within three points. The Ohio State University transfer finished with a career-high 20 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Fourteen of his 20 points came after the break as he went 3-for-5 from beyond the arc in the second half.

“There’s no question I thought D.J. could be an outstanding player,” Wojciechowksi said. “He obviously hit a huge shot for us tonight, but his defense was equally as good.”

Elliott was also on fire in the second half, scoring 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, making all three of his 3-pointers. One of those fast-break threes tied the game at 54-54. Elliott ended with a career-high 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting with four threes in 27 minutes. He has been out with thumb and ankle injuries for most of his collegiate career.

“I’m so happy for Greg, he’s been through a lot,” Wojciechowski said. “Everything he’s gone through, with most guys, it would’ve broken them. … You’re starting to see him round back into the form that we’ve always believed he could have. He was sensational.”

A Theo John slam gave Marquette the 56-54 lead with 13:29 remaining in the second half. The Golden Eagles were on a 12-2 run over the last 2:45 and were 5-for-5 from the field before Creighton head coach Greg McDermott called a timeout.

Marquette did not stop there, though. The Golden Eagles continued stout defense and hot shooting as they reached their largest lead of the game with 6:08 remaining after a Koby McEwen 3-pointer to put them up 73-61.

“The second half I thought we had really complete performance from both ends of the floor,” Wojciechowski said.

Despite the Bluejays edging back in the game with 33 seconds left, their efforts were not enough. MU sank all six free throws in the last 30 seconds to secure the win.

The latter 20 minutes was a complete dynamic shift from the first half. The majority of the first consisted of both teams trading shots, as there were six total lead changes. With 8:11 remaining in the first half, Creighton went on a 7-0 run, and from then on the Bluejays were much more efficient from deep, finishing with nine 3-pointers.

“If we did our job standing in front, it was (harder) for them to kick out and get the open threes or the good-look threes that they were getting in the first half,” Elliott said. “Once we figured that out and we kept the ball in front, it was easier for us to not have to chase Creighton around.”

Five of those threes came from senior guard Mitch Ballock, who ended the half with 17 points. Ballock was on fire, shooting 6-for-9 from the field and adding two rebounds and one assist in 18 minutes.

Though MU was on a 6-0 run prior to the half, Ballock hit a buzzer beater to put Creighton up 44-35 heading into the break after a no-look pass from sophomore guard Antwann Jones. Ballock averaged 7.6 points per game coming into the matchup, but he ended with a game and team-high 26 points and eight threes.

2020 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Marcus Zegarowski struggled throughout, scoring just eight points and shooting 0-for-7 from beyond the arc.

Despite Marquette’s seven turnovers that resulted in 11 Creighton points in the first 20 minutes of play, the Golden Eagles cleaned up their act in the second half and shot 77% from beyond the arc and limited themselves to five turnovers.

Besides Carton, four other Marquette players ended with double-digit scoring: McEwen with 18 points, Garcia and Elliott with 14 a piece and first-year Justin Lewis with 11. Garcia was the only Golden Eagle with a double-double, adding 10 rebounds in addition to his scoring.

The Golden Eagles (5-2) host Seton Hall in the team’s BIG EAST home opener Thursday at 8 p.m. Central Standard Time. The game will be telecasted on FS1.

“We have a big game versus Seton Hall coming up on Wednesday,” Elliott said. “We just have to focus in and keep the same mindset we had going into this game (and) we have to bring that to Milwaukee as well.”

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