New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The 10th-seeded Creighton Bluejays will fight to keep their season alive on Thursday when they square off with the second-seeded Georgetown Hoyas in the quarterfinal round of the Big East Conference Tournament.
Coach Greg McDermott's Bluejays ended a three-game slide in the opening round with a 78-63 win over DePaul. Creighton's victory improved it to just 14-18 on the season, and to advance it will have to defeat a Georgetown team it lost to twice this season by an average of 21 points per game.
Last season, the Bluejays received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and reached the round of 32 before saying good bye to their four starters, including the program's all-time leading scorer in Doug McDermott. As a result of all the losses they sustained, the Bluejays tied Marquette for last place in the Big East standings this year. However, Creighton looked like a powerhouse versus the Blue Demons on Wednesday, as it finished with a 35-28 advantage in rebounds, outscored DePaul, 21-8, at the free-throw line, and connected on just under 50 percent of its field goal attempts.
Coach John Thompson III guided his Hoyas to five wins in their last six outings to arrive at a 12-6 league record, which combined with the tie-breaker over Butler resulted in the team receiving the No. 2 seed in this event. Georgetown defeated all of its league foes that ended the regular season with a sub-.500 conference record. The Hoyas have the second-best scoring margin in the Big East, as they have outscored their conference rivals by 4.5 ppg. Georgetown paced the league during league play in field goal percentage defense (.401) and steals (7.2 spg). Georgetown boasts a league-best 50 Big East Tournament wins and seven titles, although the last came in 2007.
Junior guard James Mil liken paced the Bluejays in the opening round with 22 points on 8-of-14 efficiency from the field. Senior guard Devin Brooks provided a spark off the bench with 12 points, five assists and five boards, while senior guard Austin Chatman tallied 11 points and five assists. Although the Bluejays ended the regular season with three consecutive losses, those setbacks to Seton Hall (67-66), Villanova (76-72) and Xavier (74-73) came by a combined total of only six points. Chatman paced Creighton prior to the postseason in scoring (11.6 ppg) and assists (3.7 apg), while Mil liken (8.9 ppg) and Kreklow (7.6 ppg) displayed steady improvement as the season moved along.
After McDermott's departure for the NBA, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera was expected to be one of the premier players in the conference this season. The Preseason Big East Player of the Year and First Team All-Big East selection averaged 16.0 ppg to lead Georgetown, while ranking second in the league in free-throw shooting (.866). Smith-Rivera did not play in the regular-season finale due to a lower body injury and his status for Thursday is questionable. Without Smith-Rivera available versus Seton Hall, senior forward Jabril Trawick impressed on his way to 19 points and four assists. Freshman guard Tre Campbell chipped in 13 points, while senior center Joshua Smith posted nine points and eight boards. The 6-foot-10, 350-pound Smith, who transferred to GU from UCLA last season, can make a huge difference for the Hoyas against undersized opponents.